Think fast, think slow

November 07 2019
INCAE Executive Education

This extraordinary book by Daniel Kaheman was written for the general public and not for specialists. A psychologist who received the Nobel Prize in economics, father of behavioral economics, broke paradigms about actions under uncertainty, also necessary in medicine, law, business administration, strategy, politics, philosophy or statistics. 

Are people really rational? Are emotions the main cause of non-rational actions? No and no. To err is human. The logical biases and wrong predictions characteristic of fast thinking are as normal as slow thinking. indispensable for complex problems. They are two modes of thinking that we all use normally.

Thinking quickly is necessary in the face of urgent uncertainty. We use mental shortcuts to decide and act, which become automatisms in the brain. Very useful in this fast-paced world, but oversimplification can lead us to wrong decisions, illogical, originating from beliefs, intuitions, impressions, feelings (some emotions) and automated prejudices, common brain traps in impulsive people.

A doctor can err in the diagnosis when simplifying the causes, just like any other professional when faced with an ambiguous problem. Today the media and social networks are prey to easy associations of ideas, such as stereotypes, appearances, empty rhetoric or leaders who reduce a complex topic to 140-letter trills on Twitter. The "thinking slowly" is humble in the face of ignorance, seeks evidence of facts, contradictions, includes complexity without discarding it and controls (when it can) fast thinking. It is a deliberate thought, hard work, that doubts, does not rule out chance as a cause and, enriched with extensive practices, reaches a more complex model of the problem.

In my opinion, schools should actively promote the development of recognized “critical thinking”, an antidote to quick thinking. We must also celebrate that at least a century after Freud, economics is closer to the real human being, even if the behavioral sciences still have an immense work ahead.

Column published in Summa magazine, issue 273. Enrique Ogliastri Ph.D, is a professor at INCAE, author of 18 books, and strategy and family business consultant. Academic Director of the 'Advanced Negotiation Workshop' and 'How to make a strategic plan?'.

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