Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
One premise of Kahneman’s best-selling work, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is that the mind operates as if it relies on two separate systems. “System 1” refers to our ability to look out into the world and draw an immediately coherent picture based on the data we take in. “System 2” is the cognitive, thoughtful ability we call into play when we realize System 1 is beyond its ability to conjure an answer. 2X2 is no problem for System 1, but 17X54 requires the aid of System 2.
Here is what gives me pause. System 2 is lazy; delighted to accept nearly any coherent picture System 1 conjures. We prefer not to think because thinking requires energy. You come home tired and the kids are fighting. System 1 will scan for immediately available data, take no more than a nanosecond to compare it to preconceived thoughts about your children and develop a picture of what happened: who did what to whom and their motivations for doing so. My father had a phrase to describe those moments… often wrong but never in doubt!
Throughout this work, the author illustrates myriad ways our brain chooses not to make decisions based on System 2’s careful consideration of relevant data. The stories we tell about how the world operates are limited at best. Kahneman says “our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”
If you are a fan of, Built to Last, for example, the ability to assemble data and create a coherent picture of success is smoke and mirrors. Author of The Halo Effect, Phil Rozenzweig, concludes “stories of success and failure consistently exaggerate the impact of leadership style and management practices on firm outcomes, and thus their message is rarely useful.”
If you choose to read this work, be prepared. It is the fickle mind struggling to understand itself. You have to love the irony!