Thinking, Fast and Slow, written by Daniel Kahneman
Book review by Liz Hargreaves
NZ Business Women’s Network Book Club (Business Book Brunch) met on Saturday 16th February at the Ozone Coffee Roasters in Leonard Street, London. Rachael and Kirsty provided a warm welcome in the funky ‘boardroom’, set the scene for easy sharing and ensured the smooth running of our discussion around the book of the month;
Thinking, Fast and Slow, written by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and economist, Senior Scholar, Emeritus Professor and awarded a Nobel Prize.
We were immediately engaged, ready to learn, yet the early theme was we generally found Thinking, Fast and Slow to be a challenging read. Off to a slow start we were able to take a ‘deep breath’ thanks to the arrival of our delicious brunch, scrumptious coffee and tea, then we all set back to it… and the inspired conversation started to flow.
This book is the result of many years of research of two friends who are and were arguably two of the world’s brightest psychologists. The Author aims to give us a language for thinking and talking about the mind. He journeys us through Thinking, Fast and Slow by breaking it into five parts,
Part 1 – presents System 1 and System 2, an approach to judgement and choice,
Part 2 – updates the study of judgement heuristics – we take shortcuts which prevent us from seeing the full picture
Part 3 – presents a puzzling limitation of our mind; our excessive confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in
Part 4 – is a conversation on the nature of decision making and how human choice deviates from the rules of rationality which are favoured in standard economics
Part 5 – presents research introducing a distinction between two selves, the experiencing self and the remembering self, which do not have the same interests
Here I try to provide some useful extracts relating to Systems 1 and 2 so it means something to you beyond a childhood reference to Dr Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2;
System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control, you might call it intuition. In matters of emergency it can take over from System 2. System 1 is gullible and biased to believe
System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, you might call it cognition. We each have limited capacity to bring to System 2 so the brain allocates attention first to the most important activity. As you become skilled at a task its demand for energy diminishes. Cognitive strain mobilises System 2 which is more likely to reject the intuitive answer suggested by System 1. System 2 is in charge of doubting and unbelieving, but System 2 is sometimes busy, and often lazy
When the Author gets to Part 3, for this banker/reviewer, there is a reliance on demonstrating conclusions via experimental observations. For me this is the heavy part of this book. I suggest it could be better summarised for the non-psychologist. But I can say I have dipped in and I do plan to continue to do so. Because I feel there are gems to be found – there are many references to illusion which I find fascinating.
Fast forward to Part 5 and I was intrigued. We have a remembering self and an experiencing self! To illustrate;
“You are thinking of your failed marriage entirely from the perspective of the remembering self. A divorce is like a symphony with a screeching sound at the end – the fact that it ended badly does not mean it was all bad.”
Yes, we do that don’t we?
Further, the Author tells us our remembering selves tend to evaluate and remember a lengthy experience by only the peak experience and the experience just prior to the end of the duration. We give no weight to the many other moments. Could this be useful in managing staff through a performance matter? Could this be an argument for living in the present moment?
To finish I summarise some of the key take-aways of members of our group;
- - where there is change there are good reasons why unpredictable results occur
- - for important decision making there is need to use both systems, 1 and 2, there is value in taking time, even overnight, to allow the situation to become clearer.
- - a morning walk or mindfulness practice supports our thinking capacities in the workplace
- - there is value in having discipline around our own responses
- - reading Thinking, Fast and Slow provides prompts for self-awareness of our individual responses
- - it is impossible to know what has occurred in the lives of other people, all we can know is they will have encountered challenge and can be triggered to responses to which we don’t relate, kindness can help
- - this book can help us to develop a framing lens for managing up and managing down
- - to strategise working relationships can be beneficial, particularly so for difficult relationships
- - priming, i.e. the influencing of an action by an idea, is everywhere and is an opportunity available to us all
- - professionals can miss key information for a variety of reasons, including their own bias, the client’s lack of self-awareness, therefore a second opinion matters
Watch your email and register for the next Book Club meeting on Saturday April 27th to review The Culture Code, the secrets of highly successful groups by Daniel Coyle.
Banker / Career & Life Strategist
Connect with me on LinkedIn -
"Book Club Member, Kirsty Fiddes - Thinking Fast or Slow?"