Book Reviews


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

14 dogears, some worth a chapter of dogears elsewhere.

Chapter four, which discusses the Millennium Challenge and VanRiper’s win (and subsequent fixed loss) is worth the purchase price of the entire book.

The Millennium Challenge (the JFCOM’s military version, not the poverty program launched in early Aug 2006) is an interesting study of Pentagon planning, military tactical/strategic exercises, among other things. Its great to see that this sort of thing is being done…at first.

The guy to admire out of the chapter is this guy, General VanRiper: goes to his bio in’s biography area. The native URL is 3 miles long and torches K2’s theme under IE. Sorry.

There’s a rather frank interview with him here: goes to the interview with him at (same deal with K2, sorry, same deal with IE).

Its important to understand that this is not a guy who sits and talks about it. This is a guy who has walked the walk, who is so well-regarded that he is leading a military college.

VanRiper was in charge of the mock-enemy forces in the Millennium Challenge (currently described at ) and kicked the good guys’ backsides despite having his communications knocked out, and all traditional resources that he might use taken away or destroyed.

JFCOM has a great exercise on their hands, IF they choose to use it to learn and adapt. A terrible exercise if you are in denial about the results. This sort of choice is not limited to the Pentagon, nor DC. YOU can be just as misguided.
Back to Blink chapter 4: Unfortunately, the good guys changed the rules and forced a win. Its a story of stupidity, face-saving and corruption, not unheard of in Washington, unfortunately. But, it is really interesting reading about what this guy did, now that its several years later with some history under our belts.

Regardless of your politics (its NOT a political book IMO), still worth a read, as is the rest of the book.

That, however, is not the lesson of this post.

The lesson is about the value of testing and NOT assuming anything about the results. Analyze what happened and act on it. Dont ignore the results simply because you dont like them or didnt expect them, otherwise you will likely find that your testing was a waste of time, money and effort. The worst thing is, that you may end up with a serious morale and ethical problems if you take steps similar to those taken by the “good guys” as described in Chapter 4 of Blink.

Another point made in Blink that shouldnt be ignored is the power of your mind to affect the results of what you do. There was several exercises in the book (and discussions of testing that was done) where people were asked questions before taking a test. The questions were designed to make them think negatively about their race, simply by bringing it up (“What race are you?”). The results were sad, but not surprising. YOU control your mind. Your mind very much affects the results of your efforts. Don’t let traditional thought and industry norms control you.

Finally, the book itself. Dont expect to get a bunch of new strategy for critical thinking from this book. Just think. Recommended.