Sunday, September 11, 2005

Blink and Moneyball

Blink and Moneyball are two very well written books which deal with completely different subjects. Blink is a nonfiction book about the 'power of thinking without thinking'; how we make snap judgments and how they can be well founded and erroneous. Moneyball is about the Oakland A's baseball team and their ability to win in Major League Baseball with an extremely low payroll. I do not want to review the books as others much more intelligent have doen so already. I want to make a comparison between the books and how they make completely opposite arguments yet reinforce one another.

Throughout Blink, there are examples of scientists and experts of one thing or the other who can make snap judgments or astute observations with very little knowledge of a person, scenario or group. There is even the example of doctors at Cook County Hospital making worse decisions when given more information. Sometimes our unconscious thinking truly is our best response when that intuition comes from years of experience and observation. The book seesm to want to find a way to coach this power in more people. How can we develop this skill, use it, share it... The book shows examples where quick thinking was a good thing and where our mental programming & experience can be a bad thing (the President Warren Harding experiment).

Moneyball flies in the face of this and seems to back up the Warren Harding chapter in Blink by continuously showing old school baseball scouts who make their decisions about players on their bodytype and look. It consistently shows them making the wrong decision or a less efficient decision than relying upon statistics and known performance. Baseball scouting and player management seems to be based more on looks and norms than of proven performance. What has happened is that over many years scouts have seen players of a certain body type go on and be superstars and thus they see a body type and give it more worth than a players performance may warrant. On the flip side, it will discount the performance of a player who does not look the type.

You could say that Moneyball supports Blink in that the GM of the Oakland A's wants to strip away the programming in scouts' minds. The GM, Billy Beane, continually jokes about scouts wanting to sell jeans with the guys they like. In group meetings, he continually harps on looking at a players statistics and less on his waist/thigh size. Moneyball seemed the complete opposite of Blink in that it shows scouts falsely awarding worth to players. What it really is doing is reinforcing the idea that sometimes our mental programming and unconscious thinking work against us.

I really enjoyed both books and recommend Blink to anyone who has ever played hunches with their jobs, decisions, gambling, etc. and had them played out right time after time. There could be something deeper to your hunches. Moneyball is a good book on baseball and what is going on right now n the MLB and how things could change......if the Social Club allows it to change.

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