Saturday, May 19, 2007

Decision-Making in the Blink of an Eye

Recently and quite inadvertently I picked up three different books pertaining either directly or indirectly with the workings of the mind and how human beings make decisions. In a recent post I alluded to the book Blink, which a friend recommended to me recently. Living in the so-called "Age of Information" as we do, we tend to follow the popular adage that the more information you have available at your fingertips to help you with decision-making, the better off you will be. In fact, all that extra information can be more than useless. In times of war or edical emergency, for example, that extra information can be fatal because it confuses the issues. The book is full of dozens of other examples of other costly misinterpretations of data.

But "extra information isn't actually an advantage at all... in fact, you need to know very little to find the underlying signature of a complex phenomena" (p. 136). Overloading decision-makers with information makes picking up that signature harder.

However, while intense scrutiny and analysis often leads one AWAY from an accurate assessment of any given situtation, "thin-slicing" the data by filtering out unnecessary informational parameters leads to a highly accurate diagnosis in an extremely short period of time-- figuratively speaking, not much longer than the blink of your eye. To be a successful decision-maker, you have to edit. Thin-slicing, i.e. recognizing patterns and making snap judgements, is how you do this process of editing unconsciously (p. 142).

When we talk about analytical versus intuitive decision making, neither is good or bad. What is good or bad is if you use either of them in an inappropriate circumstance (143-144). Of course, we have begun to do this in our society more and more often. How might we be doing this in our churches and on our mission fields? There, that's enough of an informational overload for you about this book.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Great post - very intriguing.