Articles

'Thinking Fast and Slow’
by Daniel Kahneman - Book Review

It was January 2014 and I had just spent a week in an Ayurvedic resort in the foothills of the Himalayas, followed by two ‘chilled out’ weeks in Goa, so I was feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and looking forward to what the new year would bring. With a few hours to spare in the Kuala Lumpur airport before my flight home departed, I headed to the airport bookshop, always a treasure trove of books on leadership, management and personal development. There I discovered Daniel Kahneman’s book, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. The reviews on the back cover suggested that this book ‘was a must for those with a curious mind’, and suggested potential readers to ‘buy it fast….read it slowly and it will change the way you think!’ so I was intrigued to say the least.

In summary, Khaneman proposes that our brains are comprised of two characters, one that thinks fast, System 1, and one that thinks slow, System 2. System 1 operates automatically, intuitively, involuntarily, and effortlessly—we rely on it and we trust it, like when we drive, or read an angry facial expression. System 2 requires slowing down, deliberating, solving problems, reasoning, computing, focusing, concentrating, and not jumping to quick conclusions— like when we calculate a maths problem, choose where to invest money, or fill out a complicated form. These two systems often conflict with one another. System 1 is effortless and operates on heuristics (simple rules) that may not be accurate. System 2 requires effort evaluating those heuristics and is also prone to error. The theme of the book is how to “recognize situations in which mistakes are likely and try harder to avoid significant mistakes when stakes are high” (p28).

Daniel Kahneman’s aim in this book is to make psychology, perception, irrationality, decision making, errors of judgment, cognitive science, intuition, statistics, uncertainty, illogical thinking, and behavioural economics easy for us ‘ordinary minds’ to grasp. Despite his conversational style, initially the concepts are difficult to grasp. I am accustomed to thinking fast, seeking to gain meaning quickly by finding ‘short cuts’ by comparing similar experiences in order to understand.

For my fellow automatic, intuitive, error-making, fast thinkers I offer this simple insight into how knowing about how we think can help coaches to be more mindful with coachees. Reading this book has made me more conscious (most of the time) about how I think as a coach and in turn be aware of how coachees may be thinking. It has reminded me to slow down my thinking, so that I can be really present. It has also enabled me to help coachees to slow down their thinking, reflect, unpack their thoughts, solve problems and see other perspectives that may not be immediately clear or apparent. Being aware of System 1 and System 2 thinking has been helpful in coaching conversations.

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