Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, dives deep into the science of how humans make decisions. In this in-depth and witty book, the author provides a two-system approach to categorize how decisions are made. “System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effect and no sense of voluntary control,” whereas “System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations.” More or less, System 1 is automatic and intuitive based (i.e., fast thinking) while System 2 is calculative and methodical (i.e., slow thinking). In the ideal setting, it is assumed that these systems work together and in unity. However, as demonstrated by Kahneman’s countless case studies, oftentimes these systems can be at odds with one another, leading to inaccurate conclusions based on false assumptions and understandings.
As a demonstration of this, the author refers to the acronym WYSIATI, which stands for what you see is all there is. WYSIATI explains how irrational humans can be when making decisions and how little it matters to us. He states,
“At work here is that powerful WYSIATI rule. You cannot help dealing with the limited information you have as if it were all there is to know. You build the best possible story from the information available to you, and if it is a good story, you believe it. Paradoxically, it is easier to construct a coherent story when you know little, when there are fewer pieces to fit into the puzzle. Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”
If true, this is a terrifying statement on many levels as it demonstrates the tendency of humankind to settle for less than the complete picture. In evaluating my own tendencies, I would have to agree that I have certainly fallen prey to this complacency and laziness from time to time, content with what little information I have already gathered. This is undeniably alluring when what information I believe to be true is beneficial to support my ultimate cause, belief, or action. Considering the massive political divide our country has faced these past five years, I am curious to know, to what degree has WYSIATI furthered our misunderstanding, fear, and hatred of one another? I believe that WYSIATI has undoubtedly fueled this distrust and siloing of people and affiliations.
An additional consideration of Kahneman’s observation of WYSIATI is the sheer power of influence and assumption, much of which is often based on misinformation or too little information. In what ways does this impact our leadership? I believe there are at least two pitfalls in this way of decision making. First, as leaders, we must give a thoughtful and thorough examination of the information we have come to believe as truth or fact. If we make decisions based on what we know, but the information is wrong and incomplete, we will unlikely make the best decision to benefit those we lead and serve. Two, knowing that as leaders, we are not immune from adopting false information, in what ways are we accurately communicating information to those we lead and our stakeholders? Some might call this “influencing,” but when done such that we seek the best interest of ourselves and not those we are called to lead, it is not influencing but manipulation. And if we genuinely believe that we are merely serving the Lord and Kingdom purposes, do we really need to manipulate others to ensure His end purpose? I believe not!
While many other principles could have been touched upon, Thinking Fast and Slow has spurned a reflective evaluation of my understanding and practice of leadership. However, to emphasize the dry, yet powerful intellect of Kahneman’s writing, I would be amiss if I didn’t include one of my favorite illustrations regarding the impact of bad decisions: “…a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches. As he [Paul Rozin] points out, the negative trumps the positive in many ways, and loss aversion is one of many manifestations of a broad negativity dominance.” As leaders, we will make mistakes. So, let’s learn from those as best as we can to limit any cockroaches tainting the bowl of cherries!
 Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 1st pbk. ed. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 20–21.
 Ibid., 201.
 Ibid., 302.