Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

Think Fast, Think Slow:  How and Why We Argue With Ourselves …and Why That’s Great!

By Shlomo Maital 



 Daniel Kahneman

Kudos to Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.  Despite the fact he could easily rest on his ample laurels, he continues to generate path-breaking research in the realm of how we think and how we act based on our thinking. Here is how New York Times columnist David Brooks summarizes Kahneman’s new forthcoming book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, an “intellectual memoir” *: 

 We are dual process thinkers.  We have two interrelated systems running in our heads. One is slow, deliberate and arduous (our conscious reasoning). The other is fast, associative, automatic and supple (our unconscious pattern recognition). There is now a complex debate over the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two systems. In popular terms, think of it as the debate between “Moneyball” (look at the data) and “Blink” (go with your intuition).  

  Here is how Publisher’s Weekly reviews the book:

 “The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of  thought… Kahneman  posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1  makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so “lazy” and distractible that it usually defers to System 1.  Kahneman uses this scheme to  show…

  • ·         why we mistake statistical noise for coherent patterns;  
  • ·         why the stock-picking of well-paid investment advisers and the prognostications of pundits are worthless;
  • ·         why businessmen tend to be both absurdly overconfident and unwisely risk-averse; and
  • ·         why memory affects decision making in counterintuitive ways.

   Innovators!  Become aware of your own System 1 and System 2.  Encourage the two systems to argue fiercely.  Be aware of that argument. And leverage it, to build path-breaking icon-smashing ideas.   I believe that we all can be aware of our ‘unconscious’ thought processes, by developing the key skill of simply listening to what they are telling us.  Avoid the sin of laziness – use System 2 to thoroughly justify what System 1 is telling you.   If you do this, then 1 plus 2 will be far far more than 3.


* Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar Strauss and Giroux: New York, 2011 (Oct. 25 release).