Barack Obama had chosen to sleep on his decision to authorize the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. This, according to Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy, is exactly what scientific research would prescribe when facing a complex decision. In Harvard Business Review Article titled “A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Making Complex Decisions” they point out that there is clear research evidence to support Obama’s decision to sleep over the problem and it is the right course of action for anyone facing a challenging quandary. They have also outlined a three-step process for such decision making – (1) Take in all information, (2) Sleep on it, and (3) Check the facts.
However, many of the readers commented that this seems to be the opposite conclusion of the book “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell. Quoting Maarten W Bos from one of the comments …
“…experts can often recognize patterns within their area of expertise very fast, and therefore have a lot of subconscious processing before they make a decision…”
So, the debate goes on – should you sleep over a problem or deciding in a blink?
What do the two methods of decision making have in common?
Do you see the commonality?
In both cases we don’t understand what our brain does in the intervening period. In the first case, the subconscious processing happens over a period when we are sleeping. In the second case, subconscious processing happens in a millisecond.
In either case there are no logical steps in arriving at the solution – we just know what the right solution is. Will such a decision made by our subconscious always be a better decision?
So, the debate should be about…
In theory, the third option looks the best but how to know what is the right mix? When should stop analysis and logical thinking and hand over to your subconscious?
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has published a book titled Thinking, Fast and Slow (published in Oct-2011) which deliberates on the same topic. He is talking of System 1 thinking which is Thinking Fast (unconscious, intuitive and effort-free) and System 2 thinking which is Thinking Slow (conscious and uses deductive reasoning).
Here are two reviews of the book which will give you a fair idea of what the book is all about.
The essence of the book is:
If you have had 10,000 hours of training in a predictable, rapid-feedback environment — chess, firefighting, anesthesiology — then blink. In all other cases, think.