Publication Date: Friday, January 14, 2005
(January 14, 2005) 'Tipping Point' author to speak downtown
By Jon Wiener
The thing about snap judgments, says author Malcolm Gladwell in his new book "Blink," is that they are "first of all, enormously quick."
If you haven't already made a snap decision to put this article down, you may be interested to find the rest of Gladwell's work on first impressions tends to be much less obvious.
In the time it takes to blink, people make crucial decisions based on information they are hardly aware they know in the first place. Gladwell, a New Yorker staff writer, calls this "the adaptive unconscious," and says that it is the reason behind George Soros' billions, Jason Kidd's court sense and Tom Hanks getting an Oscar nomination for "Apollo 13."
Through a broad-reaching series of the colorful anecdotes and individuals characteristic of his last book, "The Tipping Point," Gladwell demonstrates how the best decision is often the first one.
But snap judgments don't always turn out so well. In other chapters of his book, Gladwell details how mistaken first impressions are responsible for some historic errors -- the Warren Harding presidency (the subconscious belief that tall men make good leaders is called "the Warren Harding Error"), the introduction of New Coke and the Amadou Diallo shooting.
"The Tipping Point," a best-selling study of how trends get started, has entered the popular lexicon. Everyone from rappers to Donald Rumsfeld has referenced it in recent years, and the work has become required reading for those who promote new products or work for nonprofits.
The ideas in "Blink" have potentially similar impact on a wide range of decision-makers, but also hold significance for individual people and their personal lifestyles. In an interview with the Voice, Gladwell warned that despite the similar writing styles between his two books, readers should be prepared for something different.
"There are maybe people who are expecting something more prescriptive, who are maybe expecting me to lay out a six-point plan in the end," he said. "I'm not a prophet. I'm just a writer who wants to create interest around a particular interest area."
Gladwell's next stops on his nationwide tour include Mountain View and Stanford. He will speaking at Books Inc. on Castro Street at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 and will make an appearance at the Stanford Bookstore at 12:30 p.m. the same day.
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