Magazine article New Zealand Management

It's a Blinking Mystery

Magazine article New Zealand Management

It's a Blinking Mystery

Article excerpt

That we don't know what we don't know is something of a truism-but quite often we don't know, or can't explain what we do know, and the mystery around the role intuition plays in decision-making deserves respect.

That's according to Malcolm Gladwell, the US-based author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference. In Auckland next week to speak at the Global Leaders' Forum, Gladwell reckons you can't and shouldn't try to nail down the unconscious aspects of business decision making. By nature they defy definition--and forcing the issue risks de-railing access to what he describes as the source of some of our most sophisticated and innovative thinking.

"Organisations often fall into the trap of wanting everyone to give chapter and verse as to why they are making the decisions they're making. I think it's very important, when it comes to expert, experienced people, that we respect this mystery."

Besides, the expectation that motivation or intention can be precisely described is, he suggests, a false comfort.

"It doesn't mean that, just because you can explain exactly what you're doing, that it is good. And for organisations with very formalised procedures, that's a difficult lesson to learn."

Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, is known for his ability to take leading-edge research in psychology, neuro-science and sociology and apply this to the business world. His exploration of how ideas suddenly gain momentum itself gave global prominence to the notion of the "tipping point" and he describes his own books as "intellectual adventure stories".

To pursue the lessons of the books, people have to be willing to "kind of embrace the mystery of human psychology" which requires something of a leap of faith for business folk. Good intuition, for instance, is not necessarily something you can learn in business school.

"I think that being exposed to a wide variety of experiences, given an opportunity to experiment, make mistakes, be given occasions for reflection and feedback as we learn--all of these are things that build up that ineffable thing called intuition. It's why the best organisations move their people around so they can see the world from more than one perspective. …

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