Review of Blink

Readers of Gladwell’s previous books will immediately recognize the way he changes how you think about things. In Blink, he’s done it again. While reading this book I found myself exclaiming “Wow!” over and over again (much to my wife’s consternation).

Gladwell begins the book with a discussion of fine art: a man walked into a museum with a nearly flawless 2,000 year old, seven foot tall statue (of which only 200 are currently in existence – usually badly damaged) and offered to sell it for $10 million. He presented legal papers related to its recent history. 

The museum moved cautiously. They hired a geologist to examine the statue with a high-resolution stereomicroscope, then studied samples using an electron microscope, an electron microprobe, mass spectrometry, X-ray diffraction, and X-ray fluorescence. The expert explained that the statue was covered in a layer of calcite that develops over hundreds or thousands of years, and cannot be faked. Furthermore, he identified the quarry from a small island where it had come from.

After fourteen months of investigation, the museum determined the statue was legitimate. Headlines exclaimed the brilliance of the statue and its importance to art.

But one Italian art historian noticed something odd about the fingernails on the statue.

Then a former museum director was shown the statue and he immediately noticed how “fresh” the statue seemed when it was unveiled.

Worried, the museum shipped the statue to Athens and invited local experts to inspect it. Most of them, upon a casual glance, could tell it had not come out of the ground and was not authentic.

How did the careful study and examination of the museum so badly mis-judge this piece? This is the power of Blink. The power of the sub-conscious to pick up on subtle details and patterns long before our logical, linear mind realizes what is happening. The ability of our brain to influence our reactions before we even realize what it is telling us.

Gladwell takes us on a journey explaining why gamblers can sense patterns in cards faster than the rest of us, how students can tell if a professor is effective by watching two seconds of video with no sound, and why judging a book by its cover is completely valid.

This may all seem unrelated to business or management…and in a way that’s true. However, learning to understand how to use the power of Blink can change the way you work, and likely the way you live your life.

Considering the way scientists can tell if a couple will get divorced with fantastic accuracy may help you to understand if an applicant is right for the job with just a few minutes of interview. Realizing how a retired tennis pro can tell if an athlete will serve a double fault may help you to determine if a member of your team is in the wrong position.

In short, this book is not necessarily about business… but its line of reasoning can definitely be used in management.