Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

by Malcolm Gladwell
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Chapters 4–5

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Chapter 4: Paul Van Riper's Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity

Paul Van Riper, a decorated retired Marine Corps general, served in the Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts. When the U.S. Military's Joint Force Command began planning for massive war games to be held in 2000, they saw Van Riper as the perfect leader to play the enemy, a rogue Middle Eastern dictator. Unfortunately for them, Van Riper believed in throwing aside perfect planning and dependence on the newest technology (the strategy of the U.S.'s side). Instead, Van Riper reverted to his active duty days when he provided overall guidance to his men in the field but told them to use "their own initiative" and innovation as they went forward. Van Riper's plan worked perfectly. When the U.S. (the Blue Team) cut off Van Riper's communication lines and tried to force him and his troops to rely on traceable phone lines, Van Riper instead depended on humans carrying coded messages to one another. He did whatever he thought was the opposite of what the Blue Team thought he would do and soundly defeated the Blue Team even though he was outnumbered and outgunned. Similar examples of humans' using structured intuition (training themselves to be able to think spontaneously) are Brendan Reilly's changes in Cook County's infamous ER and an improv group in New York City that successfully performs a play after an audience member shouts out a topic.

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Chapter 5: Kenna's Dilemma: The Right—and Wrong—Way to Ask People What They Want

In "Kenna's Dilemma," the author addresses the popular marketing technique of surveying potential customers, whether trying to sell albums for a music artist named Kenna or the infamous Pepsi Challenge of the 1980s. The chapter begins with a description of Kenna, an American child of Ethiopian immigrants, who tried to get a record deal. When music producers and execs listened to Kenna's eclectic music, they were enthralled and wanted to sign him. But when music marketers played one of Kenna's songs on a listening survey program, it scored very low among the average listeners. Thus, even though the music experts believed Kenna would be huge, they followed the results of the marketing survey and didn't sign him.

Similarly, in the Pepsi Challenge example from this chapter, Gladwell notes that Pepsi's 1980s campaign of offering random sip tests between Pepsi and Coke across the nation almost always resulted in people choosing Pepsi over Coke. This floored the executives at Coke. They immediately went to work on changing the Coke recipe that had produced the most popular cola in the world for decades. The end result was New Coke, a disaster. Coke's customers were so adamant in their dislike of New Coke (even though it was created to taste more like...

(The entire section contains 713 words.)

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Chapters 2–3

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Chapter 6 and Conclusion