Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Business cycles (no, not those cycles)

blink is Malcolm Gladwell's recent book on how we think "without thinking," as he says.

The Logic of Failure is Dietrich Dörner's explanation of the logic behind bad decisions we make.

Gladwell writes about improv groups that can put together seemingly unrehearsed sketches or plays on the spur of the moment. In fact, they rehearse the process intensively so they can react well on the fly. That sounds a bit like business; no matter how much we plan, reality always seems to have little surprises for us.

Dörner shows how our unaided mental processes let us down in certain situations and how the use of computer simulations can help us improve our understanding and ability to make good decisions over a wide range of situations. Simulations should improve our ability to react well when we don't have time for extended thinking.

Two books, similar story. There's a time for action, often without much time for reflection. There's a time for critical reflection, that period when we review what has happened and plan for the future.

The ability to practice can help in the critical reflection phase. Sometimes we can practice with others; actors and speakers do that. Sometimes we may find simulations effective. How often do we in business do that?

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