The Power of ‘Charm’

“But charm is more valuable than beauty. You can resist beauty, but you can’t resist charm.” – Irene (Hors De Prix)

Very powerful is ‘charm’ that it tends to bias people against rational decisions. Throughout history men who were charming got more public recognition and rewards than men who really performed. And charm is not beauty, only charm can make popular a person as weird as Einstein. Though Niels Bohr had more results to his credit, he is no way near Einstein in popularity. Successes of many such people including Rajinikanth  (Tamil Actor) cannot be attributed to anything but charm.

This irrational bias can be attributed to the Theory of Thin Slices as explained by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking’. In his book he claims most of the decisions taken by humans are in the time period of ‘Blink of an Eye’ without applying conscious judgment. This sort of decisions he claims tend to be more successful than conscious decisions except for cases where people fall to ‘charm’.

Though every human claims that at the conscious level they treat all equally, there exists an implicit bias that tend to provide unconscious favor to people who are more charming.

‘Charm’ provides an advantage in cases where decisions are to be made in short span of time. That is why the leaders who are selected to represent political parties for President or Prime Minister are the not the ones who are really capable political administrators. They are the ones who the people find ‘Charming’ enough to vote.

How many times we have heard of, seen to ourselves, people getting selected in interviews may not be as good as their competitors. I feel the ‘Charm’ effect provides this advantage. However the beneficiary has to be beware, while ‘Charm’ can help getting through and interview only performance in the long term will help sustainability.

‘Charm’ is definitely powerful.

Note: The Book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell’ does not make any references to ‘Charm’ and is not a reference to view points mentioned in this blog. The ideas mentioned in this blog are purely my views and inferences made from other sources such as this book. No proper research has been done by the author and no claim has been made for the correctness of views mentioned above.

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Workflow’s Children

There is a scene in the movie ‘Up in the Air’ where an executive would be creating a business process workflow to fire an employee. The intension of creating it was that any dumb person can get to do that just by following the workflow. Funny it may be, but that is how life and businesses run today and everyone wants to stick to it.

In work it is more evident. The previous generations understood the way businesses are run better than we do coz they had opportunities to work out different strategies to get things done. But however the current generation is tied up to workflows defined by the earlier generations which they deemed fit for the time they were initially introduced. Still most practices are still being followed though the mind doesn’t admit the reason it should be followed in current times. There practices are those where still scientific proofs are yet to be established. Reward management for example is one area where many companies are reluctant to change. Many things happen the way they happen just because it had happened the same way before.

So it is in life. From the day a child is born till he grows up to 25 it is most influenced by a definitive workflow. It is difficult for me to explain what i mean but some thought can make one understand. Like going to school, joining college, getting a job, getting married, having children etc… Though it is quite true that following an established progress path in a definitive timeline can help one limit risks of failure, the problem I see is that a person who thinks to break the custom and follow his path is often seen as a route to failure to such an extent that the whole society forces him to failure. This approach I feel is inhibiting creativity in humans and doesn’t differentiate us from monkeys.

Time to ‘THINK’

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Blink!

If you rewind life’s experiences you would note that most decisions are made at minimal time rather than planned and informed decision. While some attribute it to luck and some to experience Malcolm Gladwell attributes it to what he calls ‘Thin Slicing’: our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In other words, spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully planned and considered ones.

Gladwell also mentions that sometimes having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, or a doctor’s diagnosis. This is commonly called "Analysis paralysis." The challenge is to sift through and focus on only the most critical information to make a decision. The other information may be irrelevant and confusing to the decision maker. Collecting more and more information, in most cases, just reinforces our judgment but does not help to make it more accurate. The collection of information is commonly interpreted as confirming a person’s initial belief or bias. Gladwell explains that better judgments can be executed from simplicity and frugality of information, rather than the more common belief that greater information about a patient is proportional to an improved diagnosis. If the big picture is clear enough to decide, then decide from the big picture without using a magnifying glass.

Gladwell tells the story of a firefighter in Cleveland who answered a routine call with his men. It was in a kitchen in the back of a one-story house in a residential neighborhood. The firefighters broke down the door, laid down their hose, and began dousing the fire with water. It should have abated, but it did not. As the fire lieutenant recalls, he suddenly thought to himself, "There’s something wrong here," and he immediately ordered his men out. Moments after they fled, the floor they had been standing on collapsed. The fire had been in the basement, not the kitchen as it appeared. When asked how he knew to get out, the fireman thought it was ESP. What is interesting to Gladwell is that the fireman could not immediately explain how he knew to get out. From what Gladwell calls "the locked box" in our brains, our fireman just "blinked" and made the right decision. In fact, if the fireman had deliberated on the facts he was seeing, he would have likely lost his life and the lives of his men.

How many times in our life have we made judgments just in a matter of a sec. Unless they go wrong we never put our minds into what made us take the decision while we would have had no prior information on the subject of judgment. To say ‘blinking’ is as good or better, my life experience is too small. Have to wait.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blink_(book)

http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html

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