Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Noreena Hertz's "Eyes Wide Open"

Noreena Hertz is a bestselling author, academic, and thinker who has been described by Vogue as "one of the world's most inspiring women." Hertz has given talks for TED and the World Economic Forum, and she also advises a range of major corporations. She is associate director at the Centre for International Business and Management at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

Hertz applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World, and reported the following:
I accepted the Page Ninety-Nine Challenge before I opened my book on page ninety-nine. Although I felt pretty sure that the quality of my writing was consistent throughout, what I wasn’t sure of at all was whether this single page would reveal much about key themes of the book as a whole.

It actually does. Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World seeks to answer the big question: who, in a world of data deluge, conflicting expert opinion, marketers' spin, and politicians’ agendas, should we trust and believe?

Page 99, which falls towards the end of my chapter “Ditch Deference and Challenge Experts,” gives you a sense of what my answer – at least in part – may be. When it comes to experts, don’t trust them – at least not blindly.

Did you know that doctors misdiagnose one time in six? That you’re better off filing your tax returns yourself than getting an accountant to do so? Or that a study of 82,000 predictions by experts over a period of 16 years revealed that experts got no more right than a monkey randomly sticking pins on a board? Yet fMRI brain scans of people considering an expert’s advice reveal that as they do so, it’s as if the independent decision-making part of their brain switches off. It’s astonishing really, but an expert speaks, and it’s as if we stop thinking for ourselves. It’s a really scary idea.

We need to get over our knee jerk deference – many of us don’t even suspect there’s a problem – and embrace our inner rebel. As I write on this page: “the more we keep our brains switched on and think for ourselves as well as learn from others, the more successful we’ll be in our endeavors.” As other chapters reveal, however, it’s not just a case of challenging others, we also have to be prepared to challenge ourselves. The short cuts and coping strategies we’ve developed to cope with the data deluge and our own emotional and physical states can also badly lead us astray…
Learn more about the book and author at Noreena Hertz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue