Monday, April 25, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell - BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Last evening, I had the pleasure of hearing Malcolm Gladwell speak during a conference at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Malcolm is the author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. I had read Tipping Point a few years back and looked forward to hearing him speak. In fact, his appearance at this conference was a big reason for my attendance.

True to form, Malcolm’s message rang out with all the directness of his written word. Malcolm shared the story (also shared in Blink) of how a museum was fooled, even after much time intensive (read expensive) study as to the authenticity of a piece of “ancient” artwork. However, once fooled, yet still unbelieving, they found it unfathomable that one art expert after another, upon seeing the piece for the first time, instantly commented that it was a fake.

Thus began Malcolm’s advice that one should put far more trust into our individual instinct when it comes to key decisions then in the “established” process of decision making often lauded as the only respectable way to reach a conclusion.

Inherently, I think we all understand this to be true. However, the analyst in us seeks to back up our decisions with logical explanations. In the world of selling, this happens all the time. People will tell you that they make their purchasing decisions based on logic when in reality, they buy based on emotion; a sort of gut instinct as to what's best if you will.

For instance, I recently purchased a new, used-car. Now, I could tell you I bought it because it was a great deal, priced below market value, had four doors with adequate interior room, was still covered under warranty for another 20k miles, and it was in excellent shape. All good logical reasons to make such a purchase I’m sure you’d agree. However, the real reason I bought it was because it had a 400HP V8, a 6-speed manual transmission, was black on black leather, and it simply made me grin from ear to ear when I test drove it! See? Emotion made me do it!

In the world of marketing, we endeavor long and hard to question customers in depth so we might understand why they buy what they buy. Imagine though if we developed our marketing campaigns purely around the logical reasons for making a purchase? If we did, we’d miss the entire point for the customer (all of them) whom “decides” based on emotion!

Malcolm’s advice to trust our intuition and not attempt too heavily to explain our reasoning with logic is a great reminder to all of us in the marketing and sales world to seek out those things that trigger such intuition driven decision processes as much as we possibly can. Of course, always have a handy list of logical reasons at the ready so the customer can justify their purchase to others!

Check out Malcolm’s books at Amazon: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

As Fast Company wrote in January, 2005, Malcolm “is ‘just a thinker. But what a thinker. His provocative ideas are taking the business world by storm.”

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