Quick Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

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This year I worked through Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and this is a book that has won all sorts of awards and was to put it mildly – a big deal in 2011 and 2012.  Books on decision making since have been influenced greatly by Kahneman’s work – including Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.

This book as mentioned focuses on decision making – especially the working of the mind in navigating facts and intuition. Kahneman demonstrates how the human decision-making system is, in fact, two systems. The first is a fast system that processes information quickly and intuits proper responses while the second system is slow. This system is deliberate and intentional to analyze all the data and memory involved to make a calculated decision.

Kahneman in this book is focused on where human beings make errors in judgment, offering ideas for how to guard against some of the very human mistakes we often made. The bulk of the book is unpacking these intuitive mistakes, assumptions about knowing and decisions that he calls heuristics.  The book is over 500 pages and is quite detailed with a lot of data so I cannot hope to offer a summary on all these, though I will highlight a few. But – if you are afraid of reading a 500-page book, I found this summary online that is detailed, but brief enough to give you a pretty thorough understanding of the book in a few pages.  Check out the pdf download of that summary here.

Some of the heuristics or intuitive fallacies Kahneman covers that I found of great interest were the narrative fallacy, the hindsight illusion, the planning fallacy, the optimistic bias, and the thinking narrowly bias.  These are incredibly helpful as it relates to leadership and macro level oversight.

There are so many ways in which false ideas creep into the minds of leaders and leadership times because of many of these fallacies and biases anchored in short-cut thinking. It’s imperative for leaders to think deeply so that plans and budgets are informed by more rational and wise thought processes. We need the short-cut thinking to survive in this world because otherwise we would be paralyzed.  But the value of the book is learning when it is important to slow down and how to be aware of potential ways we might be deceiving ourselves from the facts.

These things are incredibly important for Christian leaders and ministries where you have a spiritual dimension to how events and circumstances are interpreted.  Ministries and churches are just as vulnerable to these fallacies and in the case of a few – maybe even more vulnerable.  It’s important to develop leaders and teams that know when to slow down and when to check their assumptions for the sake of wise decision making.

This book is rich and detailed and it’s implications are far reaching. I thought a lot about baseball analytics in this as well, but really it is a book about human systems and decision making. If you want something to really expand your mind and challenge some of your thinking – I highly recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow.


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