Seeing Judgment

“This was a clear instance of a mental shotgun.  He was asked whether he thought the company was financially sound, but he couldn’t forget that he likes their product.”  - Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow


In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman discusses how judgments happen.  Those small decisions we make – “like or dislike”, “good or bad,” etc. – are actually not sound judgments at all even while we would like to think of them that way.  We can look at a situation or even a person holding certain expectations whether that be a business plan or our perceptions of the leader to be the captain.  Our perceptions of things are always filled with misconceptions and personal biases.  Any aspect of business involving sound judgments requires self-awareness and a clear sense of objectivity about how we are thinking about things.  We must think about our own thinking.


In instructional design educators have established how such “metacognitive” abilities of problems solving allow a person claim personal agency over their judgments.  In order to make judgments, we must have strategies as well as a way to monitor and evaluate solutions we find to the questions presented to us.  This process is simultaneously deconstructive and constructive.  On the one hand, we seek to find the inconsistencies, contradictions, and ambiguities in habitual judgments, and then from the wreckage we build back up a new picture of things. 


The human mind draws upon both tacit and intuitive awareness in a effort to create knowledge.  These are the perceptions in raw form that we have to deal with.  In part, they are quite viable, but they also require this metacognitive awareness.  Seeing how such evaluations are processed in the minds of individuals, we can see how important the selection of leaders is.  Too many like minds are actually to the disadvantage of organizations.  The streamlining of skills and personalities actually weaken an organization.  A very successful company, Deloitte, capitalizes on a diverse set of skills and backgrounds and even hires people such as actors, musicians, and artists seeing the potential of their valuable contributions. 


Kahneman shows how our inclinations to develop “mental shotguns” combined with what he calls our desire to seek out the illusion of “intensity matching” explain why we have intuitive judgments about things we actually know very little about. How interesting that Deloitte would be hiring those people who seem to be most inclined towards subjective and intuitive thought!  Perhaps the reason is because, as Kahneman describes intensities and mental shotguns, we find that because of the way artists see things, they tend to weigh less the importance of things in terms of value and desire less to match like with like, and in terms of mental shotguns artists are less inclined to succumb to excess computation – that way the mid works to overestimate things, especially when we are confronted with a surfeit of information. 

Giambattista Tiepolo, Psyche Transported to Olympus.jpg

Among art historians, the practice of connoisseurship has long been debated.  For some, the practice weighs as a measure of authenticity and value whereas more recently experts look at the study of drawings as an exercise in how the ideas and expressions of individual artists take shape in sensuous form.  For example, the 18th century artist Tiepolo, long loved by art historians for his masterful ceiling paintings, especially in Würzburg, Germany, and especially his lyrical pen and ink drawings, represents the epitome of the gold standard in the study of the Old Masters. 


Take a look at Tiepolo’s Psyche Transported to Olympus, we see the goddess of mind or soul being transported up the gods to be immortalized and brought in union with her love Eros. She covers her hand over her eyes because she was afraid to see.  From the story we learn Psyche had been a beautiful woman who was untouchable, and she had to seek out love by learning how to look.  In Eros, she discovered what she valued.  The old fashioned connoisseur values the drawing by its material effects: the saturation of the brush, control of line, and overall pleasure of how the composition integrates into a whole.  However, the contemporary connoisseur sees the subtle inflections in the intonations of the brush, the strength and tenderness of line, and the “non-finito,” i.e., how our imagination can creatively add to the traces of what is faintly visible.  This is about seeing value as a factor of learned skill, individual expression, and the capacity of poetic imagination.  So too in business strategy do wee see how we may be too blind and filled with expectations to recognize tangible value. Yet, in those things we find them, we discover the knowledge value of learned skill, an uniqueness and individual quality, and a beautiful story.