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Wait Paperback – June 4, 2013
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Roger Lowenstein, author of "The End of Wall Street" and "When Genius Failed
""Having mined the best of American research in fields as wide-ranging as finance, behavioral economics, and law, Frank Partnoy has written a beguilingly readable treatise that boils down to a single, easily digestible conclusion: in our busy modern lives, most of us react too quickly. "Wait" will naturally and rightly be compared to Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" as a trail-blazing book exploring the hidden crannies and the treacherous pitfalls of human decision-making. I whole-heartedly recommend it."
Bethany McLean, co-author of "The"" Smartest Guys in the Room" and "All the Devils Are Here
"""Wait" is one of those rare books that will change not just the way you think, but the way you act. The book is full of ideas that are fascinating, useful--and at times mind-blowing. I was captivated."Daniel H. Pink, author of "Drive" and "A Whole New Mind""Frank Partnoy turns conventional wisdom on its head with this counterintuitive approach to decision-making. Rather than telling us how to make decisions faster and faster, he mines and refines a rich lode of information from experts in a surprising variety of fields to demonstrate the power of delay, whether measured in milliseconds, days, or decades. "Wait" is a great read, chock full of fascinating insights."
"Kirkus Reviews, " starred review
"A fascinating addition to the study of decision-making.... While there is a high premium today for speed, the author suggests that there are serious downsides to rapid decision-making.... Partnoy's results are groundbreaking and a potential corrective to modern pressures for rapid response, whether on the playing field, in high-speed computer trading and corporate boardrooms, or on the battlefield.... File alongside Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely, [and] Jonah Lehrer."
About the Author
Frank Partnoy is the author of F.I.A.S.C.O., Infectious Greed, and The Match King. Formerly an investment banker at Morgan Stanley and a practicing corporate lawyer, he is one of the world’s leading experts on market regulation and is a frequent commentator for the Financial Times, the New York Times, NPR, and CBS’s 60 Minutes. Partnoy is a graduate of Yale Law School and is the George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance and the founding director of the Center for Corporate and Securities Law at the University of San Diego.
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Key Take-Away: Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” suggested that we make split-second decisions and trust our “gut.” Mr. Partnoy implores us to do the opposite. Taking Einstein one step further, he advises that if we have 60 minutes to make a decision – we should wait until 59 minutes and 59 seconds to respond (or react) regardless if the answer is clear in our minds in the first few milliseconds. We should use premortem more often, which is to suggest imagining that a future decision has failed and ask … Why? Pause more … Panic less, he urges. As Socrates stated, “I neither know nor think that I know,” which is precisely why delaying decisions and actions is a level of wisdom that shows a long-term perspective on the success behind restraint and thought. As with the Socratic Method, it also provides competitive advantage. While thought creates both opportunity and danger, with the right experience and science of delay, our conscious (or subconscious) actions will have both exactness and meaning. The Syria situation may be the perfect example of what Partnoy hopes to convey … The “art of waiting” forces humanity to think. It is that deliberate internalization that could change perspectives which otherwise might be fleeting.
Recommendation: The concepts presented are insightful, thought provoking and interesting, but Mr. Partnoy is reaching to connect events and outcomes that are difficult to prove with real data. There is wisdom in waiting, but to suggest it is always the right answer is too sweeping. He reminds the reader that the most central part of the human condition is our ability to think about delay and then choose whether we will act based on our view of the “unknown, unknowns,” (Donald Rumsfeld) “black swans,” (Nassim Taleb) or “inevitability of surprise” (Clausewitz). His conclusions provide the reader with a final thought of “okay, I’ve waited, now what?” The book’s themes are regurgitated in different formats throughout but do not expand the discussion. Recommend reading the title to capture the central theme, but I believe the rest of the book … can wait.
TRY this thought experiment. A friend says: "Let's get together in the next couple of weeks, when you have some time on your hands."
Unless you are retired, the idea of having time on your hands would probably strike you - as it does me - as quaint, something from a different generation. No one has time, you have to make time.
Everything about us is happening fast and then faster. To buy this book fast used to mean getting it speed couriered to you overnight, now it can be delivered in seconds to your Kindle.
We want our food fast, our meeting fast, our decisions fast, our internet fast, and even our cricket condensed from days to hours.
Is this good or bad? Clearly, it depends on the consequences. Playing a concerto faster is awful, and faster internet speed is great.
The value of law and finance Professor Frank Partnoy's book lies in its concern with a more profound consequence of our fast culture, the effect on our decision-making.
I have long held the view that the reason so many bad decisions are made in business is more a consequence of deciding too quickly rather than deciding incorrectly.
Let's start with dating. No longer do you have to wait to be introduced to your friend's friend, you can post a picture of yourself on a dating site and search it for others looking for a date.
The key to choosing who to date is usually the picture, and the key to choosing the picture is the "five F's: Face, Full body, Fun, Friends, and Family in that order."
Based on the picture, we will make a decision as to who we wish to know and who we don't. And then you meet the person and are amazed how much can be done on Photoshop.
To get to know a person requires sensing them live, feeling for compatibility and chemistry. This why Irene LaCota, president of It's Just Lunch, a dating service, does not allow photos on her site; the decisions they facilitate are just too fast and, often, just too wrong.
Drawing on leading edge neuroscience and behavioural economics, Professor Partnoy shows why the best decisions are made after a pause, even if the pause is nothing more than a nanosecond.
Wimbledon champions Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert are champions because they are able to pause before returning a serve.
What they have mastered is the ability to adjust their bodies, so that they will be able to return the ball correctly in the four to five hundred nanoseconds between the ball connecting with the racket of the server and the time they will need to hit the return.
It takes about 200 milliseconds for the eye to note where on the racket the server's ball connects and then 100 milliseconds later the ball must be returned. In this time, the truly great can "pause" and assess where the ball will be headed and adjust their bodies accordingly.
As brief as it is it is, nevertheless, a moment to assess.
Throughout this engaging book are studies and descriptions of "delay specialists", people whose success is predicated on not acting, or acting slowly, rather than responding rapidly.
At one extreme is the billionaire investor Warren Buffett who is compared to a baseball player waiting for the right ball to hit, with no compulsion to avoid hitting the many that are thrown at him.
This enables him to delay the decision to swing until the right time. In a baseball game the hitter doesn't have the luxury of not hitting, but the best delay the decision so they can think (very fast) until the minimum required time to hit arrives.
Contrast this with the obsession with speed in the field of equity trading, and at least consider whether a little slower wouldn't be a little better. (Partnoy brings evidence to show it is.)
In his book Blink Malcolm Gladwell addresses the not dissimilar issue of how people make lightning fast decisions that are right, but comes to a significantly different conclusion.
This focuses on "expert knowledge", the ability to skip steps in the thinking process and still arrive at the right answer. Partnoy reaches the conclusion that it is the waiting, the pause, that allows for assessment that facilitates the better decision.
What Partnoy has on his side is a solid body of neuroscientific support.
The inability to wait until the minimum required time to act is a common cause of investment, business and social errors. Taking the extra millisecond (in the case of tennis players,) the extra hours to come to a decision about a person, as a date or an employee, or delaying a business decision for days is clearly an advantage.
The challenge is to know when and for how long one can wait without adverse consequences.
If nothing else, this interesting book will have you reconsidering whether waiting might not be a good idea the next time you need to make a significant decision.
Readability: Light ---+- Serious
Insights: High -+--- Low
Practicality: High ---+- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy.
Top international reviews
This is all fascinating, and builds on Daniel Kahneman's work in Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is now being referenced by so many of these kind of books that anyone considering this should read that first.
The problem is that while Frank Partnoy is very good in demonstrating _that_ waiting can be beneficial, he doesn't make a compelling general case for _why_ it is beneficial, which means that we don't get a general insight into _when_ it is beneficial. To clarify: it is obvious that in super-fast sports there is a momentary pause before you react to something. Partnoy hails fencing as the fastest of all sports, which pleases me, as a fencer. I can confirm that he is right -- reacting too early is always a mistake. You have to watch the blade onto the blade, just as in cricket (which he also explores) you have to hit the ball when it's under your nose.
Likewise, in super-fast trades, which is something which he's written on earlier with great success, it turns out that leaving a pause in the algorithm gives a better result, though it's not entirely clear why.
What is missing is a logical analysis or definition which shows how to optimise that pause. To return to fencing, you have to wait long enough to see what your opponent is doing, but if you wait too long he will hit you anyway. At that point waiting has become counter-productive. From my own coaching experience most fencers will tend to go too fast, simply because the people whose tendency is to go too slow are weeded out in the first week or so and abandon the sport.
I enjoyed reading this book, and learned a great deal from it. However, I felt it didn't live up to its promise of teaching the useful art of procrastination.
I quit here.
I bought it because I enjoyed FIASCO, but this is only a shadow of The Hour Between Dog And Wolf. In 68 pages nothing learnt, provided you've read a bit of recent psych.
One of his more interesting examples is how subliminal presentations of fast-food logos (by flashing them too quickly for the conscious mind to register) changes people's perceptions of time. It speeds them up. So can working on an hourly wage instead of a salary. That encourages people to measure their time by what they could be making with it, leading to less satisfaction of time off and vacations. From first dates to picking stocks, Partnoy makes the claim that waiting to make a decision until the last moment possible leads to better decision making. It's here that the evidence is a little thin. He repeats the assertion a lot, and gives plenty of examples, but says very little about those times when a fast decision is better than a slow one. In essence, when the fast, automatic part of the brain is better than the slow, conscious part of the brain. The Gift of Fear is a book about how our snap decisions about fearful situations can be more accurate, and safer, than our deliberate, reasoned decisions. I'd like to see these kinds of ideas going head to head in a book like Wait, but they don't. The section on procrastinating was interesting, but again, under-developed.
Partnoy does acknowledge the existence of the two systems, but comes down pretty strongly on the idea that the more time we have to wait, the better our decisions are. He uses evidence from multiple disciplines, including economics, sports, business, neuroscience, developmental psychology, and cognitive psychology. All of these are interesting, but they don't really feel fully developed or explored. For example, an early chapter focuses on a breakthrough relating to how the variability of one's heartbeat in response to the environment, as an infant, is highly predictive of later adult behavior. I find that a little hard to buy 100%, and Partnoy does little to present alternative evidence or to fully explore the potential holes in that theory (e.g., its correlational nature). That makes it hard to fully recommend this book. Still, it's an interesting read about an interesting topic that is perhaps a little ambitious in its scope versus its evidece. If you're not sure whether or not the book is for you, Partnoy would offer the simple advice of waiting until the last possible moment before deciding to click on that button to add it to your cart.
Procrastination is a problem most people face from time to time. All people have a problem of postponing decisions and actions they dislike. The mind signals conflict as they push in opposite directions of getting things done as quickly as possible and on the of other hand push for delay. The author describes how you should be aware of these two opposing forces and make a conscious choice. He also describes the merit of working with a mix of taking small actions and big actions. That is much more effective than concentrating a whole day only on one big action, or only on small actions.
Many subjects are covered with fascinating insights such as the interaction between heart and mind, tennis, baseball, football, high frequency trading, surgery, avoiding panic, fighter pilots, first dates, when and how to apologize, accountants, interviewing the President of the USA, getting out of the trap of thinking time is money, innovation, and opening up a closed mind
A book with an amazing richness of new knowledge, scientific as well as applications in daily life.
It's an excellent source of information on the decision process of any human or human organization.
Every book I read brings me insights. This one brought the hell of a lot. I might have highlighted 10% of the book !
Thanks a lot Mister Partnoy, your work change my life big time.
I suggest you prioritize that book on your the top of your reading list !
Frank Partnoy - Wait, the useful art of procrastination,- chapter 11 Master class.
As soon as i read the above few sentences i was convinced this book was not meant for me. Ill leave it up to your own intelligent self to digest these sentences. Interpret them as you may.
I would like to once again emphasize the importance of the book "How we Decide" ~Jonah Lehrer.
Now, although there have been some disturbing and mostly disappointing developments regarding Mr Lehrer's career as a writer this is a MUST read book for basically anyone. It covers psychology, situational behavior, behavioral patterns, Dopamine, and the prefrontal cortex.
It also draws its own conclusions backed up by scientific research by some of the best neurologists known to man. Unlike the book "wait" which draws most of its inspiration from Malcolm Gladwell books and anything thats "hip" right now. According to allot of reviewers this book is somewhat of a beam of light in allot of darkness. Basically the "interesting bar conversations" structure of this book lacks complete scientific analysis. And allot of conclusions are just made up. Honestly, how is someone able to conjure up something about a past event, someone else's thought processes. And point the metaphorical finger up in the air and proclaim THIS IS WHAT HAPPEND!.
No, good writers like Jonah, Brian Christian, Joshua Foer, Susan Cain, Adam Phillips, Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronso among many did their own research, concluded things on their own. And didnt go with the flow of mainstream psychology media.
Get this book if you want to go to the fancy (shirt wearing) bar and talk about "interesting" subjects. Because honestly, this is basically just that. A prolonged bar conversation, the one where someone tells other peoples stories. Because that person has nothing to tell about himself anyway.
Mr Partnoy has successfully filled a book about nothing really that interesting. Anyone who would be interested in this book, should consider Universe in a Single atom instead. Or any other book by Einstein on relativity of time, or similar books by David Bohm.
Finish one of the above, and follow it up with ~Mistakes were made (but not by me) ~ by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. (about biastheory and cognitive dissonance)
Far more imformative and facinating to read. Also tends to lean on its own conclusions and source material, instead of referencing "a writer" in this case Malcom Gladwell all the time.