Book Review of “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Posted: September 29, 2016 in Book Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel KahnemanThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can usually read and absorb things – even those unfamiliar to me – quickly, but Kahneman’s book demands that you slow down (and, at times, stop altogether) and consider what is discussed here.

This book takes a detailed look at how our minds work. Or, surprisingly to me, in most cases how they don’t.

The mind is composed of two “systems,” as Kahneman labels them.

System A, the fast system, is the dominant mind system we employ the majority of the time.

System A is a flaky system, powered by emotions and impressions (many of which reflect our inherent biases and prejudices, which we’ve over time come to accept as universally true in every and all situations).

System A is also a faulty system that routinely makes errors, but rarely knows and even more rarely cares. System A deals with exactly what is in front of it, never worrying – or wondering – about what’s missing, what’s askew, or what else is needed before coming to a conclusion. Instead, it assumes what is there is all there is and makes up things to make what is there palatable and/or logical and then blithely moves on to the next thing, not missing a beat and never looking back.

Additionally, System is hopelessly gullible and is easily deceived. When we fall for lies and believe them until they become “truth,” we are running exclusively on System A. And we all have a much greater propensity toward this than we can even fathom (Kahneman’s book is full of examples of this and the numbers behind the research he and others he’s worked with over the last 50 are eye-opening).

System B, the slow system, is the system that does critical thinking.

System B is deliberate, analytical, and problem-solving, asking questions, seeking all the information, testing and proving answers based on solid evidence and comprehensive knowledge. All this work takes a lot of time, compared to the non-work of System A, expends a lot of glucose – energy – in the brain (the more hungry we are, the less likely we’re going to use System B at all), and is much harder than what System A does.

It turns out that System B is also extremely lazy: knowing how much effort, time, and resources are involved, System B routinely just lays low and lets System A field and handle everything. Except when System B has no choice but to get involved (retaining information for recall and working with math and numbers are two common examples of System B at work).

System A and System B don’t work together. The easiest way to deceive System A is to give System B something to do at the same time. While System B is diverted and occupied, System A will believe anything, no matter how outrageous or untrue it is.

Marketers and advertisers are the most notorious for exploiting this defect in our minds and they routinely suck most of us in as a result (and have lots of money and loyalty in the process), but we shouldn’t be fooled into believing that it doesn’t happen everywhere else in life as well.

This book really highlights how much we should be using System B for the stuff that matters in our lives – no matter how high the cost – instead of defaulting to (which we tend to do automatically) and relying on System A.

There is a lot to learn here and to use System B to really think about and understand, so it won’t be a quick read (no doubt, by design). But it is well worth the time and investment that we all are in need of making a concerted effort to do.

For those of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders, using System B dominantly is not just an option, but an imperative.

Whether we are building trust and being trustworthy depends upon our use of System B. How we lead our teams in every part of our lives depends upon our use of System B. The example we set for not only our teams, but everyone whose lives intersect with ours depends upon our use of System B.

How are we doing?

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s