61: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

61: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Episode found at: https://bookworm.fm/61/

Your brain is an incredibly powerful computer, rapidly processing information to help you make better decisions – except when it doesn’t. Should you really trust your first impressions? Join Joe & Mike as they dive into the world of rapid cognition and thinking without thinking. Links – Bookworm shirts – Prodcon – GoodNotes – The…

Read this book a long time ago and enjoyed it but I think Gladwell first and foremost is about making difficult subjects easy and enjoyable to read, which isn’t a bad thing. More recently I read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It was much more difficult to read but more rewarding for it. It’s about the two methods of thinking which he calls System 1 and System 2 and one is fast and err one is slow. But reading this book it’s easy to make the progression in to habit forming and numerous other areas. For instance you can only multi-task when using System 1.

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That’s an interesting connection to make. Having not read Kahneman’s book, I’d be curious to compare them.

I agree with Martin. One point I wanted to make about the war games and that description. I agree that it’s not good to declare things a success when the red team wins and you have to shut them down to make the game winnable. I had a couple reactions as I listed to the discussion. At some point, after the red team has made their point, there is value in letting the blue team work through the tactics they’ve prepared in order for them to get any value out of the exercise. Also, if the red team decided they’re just going to use whatever crazy tactics they want they’re not actually simulating the tactics and procedures of the enemy. Even if a general went rogue he’s going to use what he’s been trained and knows…think of them like habits. There is certainly value in doing the absolutely unexpected to see how your current tactics work but you also have to train against the tactics you’re most likely to see in the field.

These were just gut reactions from someone who did a lot of large force exercises when I was in the military and played the red team a few times. I’ll need to do more research into the Millennium Exercise to see if they hold true.

Great perspective here. My sense is that with stories like this one, it’s hard to understand or grasp the what’s going on from both sides. Thus, @mikeschmitz and I do our best to give our view. I can see how Gladwell may have spun the story here a bit to show his perspective and we likely accepted it without question.

That said, if changing the rules on the scenario in order to gain more understanding with the tools they have at play could certainly bring learnings of some kind. But where I start to question things is when we hear of the celebrated win of the Blue team that comes across as an undeniable success. It seems odd to throw a party when Blue only won after the rules changed. It may be well justified but I don’t know the full story.

Please do. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.


I was just reading through this and it made some interesting points about the developments. I still land on the edge between the two sides and think Malcolm exaggerated some facts to make his point. The article says out that most of the information that is public came from Van Riper which would certainly have a slant. I thought it was worthwhile and having been on the red team a few times post this event it was interesting that the value of a red team was only recognized and indoctrinated after MC '02.

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