Don’t Blink – and miss this book club

I’ve decided to hijack my own new media blog for this summer and use the space to reflect as I read the book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m reading as part of a “geographically diverse social media” (read: Facebook) Book Club started by an old high school “friend” (read: first love).

This book intrigues me because despite my training and career as a scientist, I make many if not most of my decisions based on intuition.  Gladwell says in the introduction that “the first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

How validating, and yet, I remain a bit skeptical, as least with respect to myself and my first impressions of others. When I first meet someone new, my immediately reactions are typically powerful, and I’d say 80-90% of the time, very positive. I become infatuated with many new acquaintances, not romantically, but I typically find myself deeply attracted to something about that person. It may be a talent, an idea, their energy, or simply the fact that we’ve been introduced by a mutual friend. I want to get to know this person better. In the workplace, I want to collaborate with this person, learn from him and her and create something together.

Needless to say, I’ve been burned – many times. I embark on projects with people I don’t know very well only to discover that many of them don’t live up to my fuller expectations. Great ideas but no stamina to carry these to fruition. Or very frequently, wonderful, friendly people in our one-on-one interactions but unable to play well with a host of others when I try to fill out the roster by bringing other colleagues into the project.

After a bit of self-psycho-analysis, I’d labeled myself naive, a poor judge of character, even gullible. I’ve been reflecting on how to become a stronger leader,  and recently vowed not to trust my first impressions, to reserve judgment until I got to know someone better, to gather more data and attend to the opinions of others who are less emotional and less intuitive than myself, before making any commitments.

I’ve made this plan to be more cautious, but it does not sit well with my gut, my intuition. And so I read Blink with hope and interest. I’m hoping that there is something valid to my first impressions. Maybe I’m not a silly Pollyanna, but am glimpsing something genuine, perhaps seeing the best of people on that first encounter and recognizing the potential of what our relationship could be.

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