Quick and Simple
On June 4, I wrote about “The Tipping Point, a book by Malcolm Gladwell. Today, I’m going to talk about another one of his books, Blink, which refers to one of the fundamental values of Grupo Salinas: quick and simple.
Blink talks about the part of our brain capable of processing problems instantaneously, in the blink of an eye, simply and efficiently. Without this ability, we might easily succumb to dangerous situations, or moments of extreme competition in the business world.
The book talks about the story of a fire chief, who went to put out what seemed to be a simple kitchen fire, and ordered his team immediately out of the area without being fully aware of his own reasoning. Seconds after they left the house, the floor fell in. The fire chief saved his team because he came to the immediate conclusion that the reason the fire didn’t respond to water was that it was not a typical kitchen fire. In fact, it was an inferno in the basement. On a conscious level, it took him a lot longer to come to the same conclusion.
Our brain, the most marvelous machine known to man, is capable of processing huge amounts of information and reaching very sophisticated conclusions almost instantaneously, and with efficiency that no electronic computer has been able to match. This processing takes place on a subconscious level, so that when our brain works in this way, we are not aware of its reasoning, but one way or another it persuades us to act in consequence. We call this complex mechanism “simple intuition.”
Because it operates subconsciously, intuitive thinking is difficult to verbalize. That is why often meetings and memos do not reflect the best of what we are as professionals. Our colleagues’ most brilliant, creative thinking does not come across in lengthy documents. Bureaucratic excesses inhibit creativity and slow organizations down.
We must eliminate bureaucracy in companies and encourage intuitive thinking and creativity. Gladwell says that by always trying to verbalize what we think, we can inhibit our intuition. Imagine for a moment a soccer player who tries to explain each of his movements while playing: very often they involve highly creative plays that have no immediate logical explanation. This compulsive obsession has been called “paralysis by analysis.” It’s the inability to react quickly because you’re thinking with the wrong part of the brain. Companies cannot spend all their time analyzing: they must act.
But we should also be cautious of the opposite extreme. Intuitive thinking is not infallible. Blink includes cases where this mechanism came to terribly wrong conclusions. Once we come to an intuitive conclusion, it is useful to make a conscious effort to formalize and document the reasoning to identify mistakes and communicate ideas with to other people.
We must also make a conscious effort to improve the precision of our intuitive thinking and develop the capacity to know when we can trust it and when we can’t. This is achieved through experience.
We live in a world that assumes that the longer we think about things and consider our decisions, the better they will be. Anyone who thinks this is true can spend a lifetime thinking without acting.
It’s important for organizations to move quickly in the information age. Our intuition can reach very precise conclusions in seconds. The same goes for organizations: we must educate and promote the capacity to simplify processes and make quick decisions. Then, once the decision is made, we must implement it like Rowan.