Here is a simple puzzle. Answer it as you are reading without stopping to analyse it.
A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
If you followed the instruction you are likely to have come up with the answer of ten cents.
There are no tricks here. This exercise from Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow is a classic example of our fast brain at work. It sees the answer immediately and makes it available to us.
Our slow brain on the other hand takes much longer to reach an answer and is suited for more complex topics.
2 x 2 is a fast brain problem and you can reach the answer of 4 with no effort at all.
17 x 24 on the other hand produces no immediate response and requires our slow brain to engage and figure out the answer.
The challenge which we all face is that our slow brain needs to ask the fast brain to engage and if it thinks it has the answer it jumps in.
In the bat and ball example above, the lure of jumping in was just too much because the answer was so obvious.
Unfortunately the obvious answer was also wrong as the correct answer is in fact $1.05, an answer which requires the slow brain.
Our fast brain is responsible, at least part of the time for jumping to quick irrational answers which the slow brain would figure out, if only we gave it a chance.
Strategic thinking is typically a slow brain activity.
Image source: http://bit.ly/Wg1Eec