Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

The book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is just one of his well known works. He is also the author of The Tipping Point, a book about science and chaos theories and hopefully a book I will be reading in the near future. Yet, Blink is a book written about the power of thinking without thinking. What does that mean you ask? It's about the snap-judgments or slices of thoughts that we make without our control. In my understanding of it, it almost seemed that snap judgments where "learned thoughts" through our environment. It was the stuff we might have learned through a situation, such as, a stressful time, or through the influence of others. Such as manners, racism, and common likes or dislikes. It's our first two seconds of thinking that we have learned so well it hits us in a instant. Other interesting topics within the book include mind-reading, speed dating, and selling cars. Gladwell talks about how we can better understand each other without words and know what to look for in a person’s face or body jesters.

Gladwell's Blink had a very interesting chapter, Chapter 5: Kenna's Dilemma: The Right - and Wrong- Way to Ask People What They Want. Throughout the chapter he talked about, Kenna, a musician that couldn't seem to get a solid record deal  because he could not get enough fans in "x" amount of time. And throughout the chapter Gladwall branches into the subject of Coke versus Pepsi and how Pepsi is the better soda at the first sip and not by the glass. The idea is that it takes time to make decisions about products and peoples actions, like 10 minutes or so to realize that you're being tricked or scammed. And sometimes we still don't even know what we want. In Gladwell's TED video I remember listening to a talk about marketing tests for spaghetti sauces. The tests would ask "Did you like a thin sauce or a thick sauce" and the results were all over the map. Because people made snap judgments about how their sauce should look versus its taste or texture. Many Italians like the sauce thin to coat the noodles at the bottom, because that was the traditional way sauce was made; even though the thick sauce was better favored. It wasn't until the company thought people just needed something difference altogether and added meat. People didn't know that they should like meat sauce or not by Ragu showed them the way.

Thoughts no matter how quick they come to us have been learned. It’s our way of protecting ourselves when we have little time to think- it’s or Fight or Flight mechanism. Although this book at first seemed to start telling the same storyline over and over, each story had great points that can be used to better understand product design, research statistics, and marketing/advertising; which is why I would recommend Blink by Malcolm Gladwell to any designer looking for answers and better results.

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