Buy this book for an easy-to-read and solidly researched guide into how human beings think and make decisions. Do not, however, expect to discover much substance on how to correct or manage these cognitive flaws.
Duncan Watts has written an important book that should be read by managers, politicians and leaders of every kind. Although it won't be because these are just the sort of people who DON'T think they need this sort of help!
The key message I took away was that 'common sense' (Watts describes what this can be thought of) is useful in our everyday lives. However, despite the value we place on it, our simple, intuitive understanding of the world is simply not good enough when it comes to explaining the past, understanding the present or planning for the future. Or, in other words, we should not reply upon our simplistic mental models to explain the world.
Thus, the world is far more complex than our brains can comprehend.
Whilst this might sound obvious, Watts demonstrates time and time again how people and organisations have relied on pretty flaky thinking in a wide variety of settings. And whilst I'd read about many of these type of cognitive failings before, it was enjoyable to read Watt's take upon them.
The difficulty for us - including you and me dear reader - is that, even though we may know about these cognitive failings, we are still going to suffer from them. This is the way our brains, all of our brains, are wired. This is how we think and decide. Indeed, the cognitive failings Watts describes are a bit like those A-level Psychology optical illusions you're probably familiar with. Even though you know you're looking at an optical illusion, you still suffer from the illusion despite yourself!
Thus, as Watt's points out, we need to be very self-aware and understand how we and everyone else actually thinks. Which is why, I guess, I found Watt's book a little lacking.
I was hoping that his book would provide more of a solid framework for circumventing our intellectual weaknesses. To be fair, he does give some brief suggestions on how to test ideas in a more scientific manner (which is what his book is all about). Unfortunately for me, this latter part of the book is very light on detail and paints a picture of how to do this with very broad brush strokes.
So, in conclusion, I'm glad I read this book. I got a lot out of it and can recommend it to you.
I did think, however, that it was more of a 'How To' book than it actually is. Which should have been, I guess, obvious...