“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

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I started reading it couple of years ago. I abandoned it 20%in. It seemed discouraging to learn that humans react rather than they actually think. This year, I decided to give it another go. And I appreciated all the wealth of perspectives about how we can improve our decision-making once we are aware about our biases and the shortcuts our brains take. Kahneman puts it this way: “So this is my aim for watercooler conversations: improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgement and choice, in others and eventually ourselves, by providing a richer and more precise language to discuss them. In at least some cases, an accurate diagnosis may suggest an intervention to limit the damage that bad judgements and choices often cause”.

At times the book is theory heavy, yet I found many useful things for my project management work. I learned more about how the human brain works, so that I improve my interactions with others. It can serve us in preparations for the project’s board or in negotiations with the project’s sponsor. Especially, if we remember that “We can be blind to the obvious. And we are also blind to our blindness.”

For teams management, I found it useful to note that “Too much concern about how well one is doing in a task sometimes disrupts performance by loading short-term memory with pointless anxious thoughts. … self-control requires attention and effort”. Or that for some of us, “cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not only with your brain”. And the concept of affect heuristics – the tendency to base our decisions on our emotions; “the emotional tail wags the emotional dog”.

When we do risk management in projects, it is useful to remember that “risk” does not exist “out there”, independent of our minds and culture, waiting to be measured. Human beings have invented the concept of “risk” to help them understand and cope with the dangers and uncertainties of life. Although these dangers are real, there is no such thing as “real risk” or “objective risk” (see Slovic’s theory for more).

For a drop of intellectual humility it is useful to be aware that “Expertise is not a single skill; it is a collection of skills, and the same professional may be highly expert in some tasks in her domain while remaining a novice in others”.

These are just a few of my takeaways. You are welcome to share yours if you read the book.

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