Fast and slow thinking for architects

200px-Thinking__Fast_and_SlowI recently read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. A leading psychologist and Nobel laureate in economics, Kahneman has condensed a lifetime of discovery and insights into how people make choices into a remarkably readable and enjoyable masterpiece. To quote Richard Thaler on the cover, this book “will change the way you think, on the job, about the world, and in your own life” – it certainly did for me.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” has a few interesting messages for architects. Good architectural decisions weigh alternative solutions to address architectural concerns in an objective manner, based on the impact these choices make on the risk, cost and value to stakeholders. But we know our choices are biased – by our previous experiences, limited knowledge, tastes, fears and hopes. Kahneman not only shows us how ubiquitous such bias is, but he also supplies us with a powerful set of tools to recognise and control it. The book presents a brilliant model of our “judgement engine”, and ruthlessly analyses its weaknesses – often leading to hilarious results.

Understanding the workings of our judgment engine could help architects make more rational decisions, and lead to solutions with more value and less risk and cost to stakeholders. Among the many brilliant ideas, Kahneman tells us:

  • when to trust our intuition, and when not to
  • when simple checklists and formulas are better than expert judgment
  • when and how to reframe problems to prevent biased decisions
  • why we are prepared to take far greater risks in failing projects than in opportunities to improve successful ones (and why this is bad!)
  • why we sometimes ignore essential information to the problem at hand
  • when we need an “outside view”

These are very valuable things to know for solution architects. Warmly recommended reading for architects.

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