Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

I guess anyone who has set foot in a bookshop sometime the last three years has seen Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman . It is everywhere, and I have to admit that I was biased after seeing it shelved among the management literature in airports. I have a suspicion those sections were constructed to lure money from HR trainee personnel on their first business trip.

Anyway, I ended up buying the book after having it recommended to me by coworkers and friends, and changed my opinion almost as soon as I had begun reading it.

It is funny, I guess, that I had let my subconscious form this view without any real thought. Thinking Fast and Slow touches the subject of opinions, prejudices, the truths we think we know; how we make ourselves believe that our behavior is rational. Though at its core is decision-making: how we judge situations, and what psychological traits make up the basis for our choices between risks and rewards.

Kahneman has made many contributions to behavioral economics and cognitive science, not the least Prospect Theory for which he received a Nobel Memorial Price in Economy back in 2002. The theory, showing that we are not always very good at judging risk, is central to the book and quite interesting. Kahneman shows that even in areas where someone has years of experience they still tend to poorly when making intuitive decisions. Instead, a more thoughtful process is required, leading to the title: Thinking fast and slow.

The subject may sound dry, but is in fact extremely interesting, educating, and the language far from stale and academic. Kahneman is a skilled writer, and I was especially impressed by the examples spread throughout the book. These are mostly taken from questionnaires used in studies, and lie interwoven in the text to highlight some phenomena. While reading one forms own answers to the questions, almost without thinking. It is interesting how easy it is to go with the intuitive answer in these situations, and how often it is off. Even after a while when one has learned to think about the questions and statements, the intuition can be felt to drag one way or the other. Those are the two systems in action.

I wasn't completely on board with the 'water-cooler talk' at the end of each chapter. Small snippets taken from conversations that could happen at the water-cooler in the office. These felt synthetic and a little bit out of place, but perhaps that is because I am not working at one of those offices. On the other hand, even these were instructive and inserted to showcase the main points of the chapter.

In any case, a well written and interesting book and I do recommend it. Next time I will try not to disregard a book by its shelf, but perhaps take a risk. It may bring rewarding reading.