Dear Colleagues!  This is Pharma Veterans Blog Post #482. Pharma Veterans welcomes sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi onWordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Eid Holidays mixed with lockdown have started for most people. Pharmaceutical industry was granted exemption verbally but given the situation otherwise, I understand that most Pharma people would have this week off. Eid ul Fitr this year shall again come under the heavy shadow of COVID. The infections are rising and so is the death toll. It cannot be overemphasized that we all need to be responsible, take full precautions and save ourselves and others from undesired consequences. Pharma professionals have a greater responsibility as they are part of healthcare system and they are better aware of the disease and its implications. So many senior and junior doctors have succumbed to COVID and are still under threat. This time, COVID has come near everyone, in the family, among friends, colleagues, coworkers and acquaintances. We must do our part and pray for Allah’s Grace.

This week, I would like to introduce you to Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate, and his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ which is considered a bucket list book, or ‘if you just read ten books’ kind of recommended book.

Daniel Kahneman is an Emeritus Professor in the US. He received his Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He, along with Amos Tversky, worked for many years on the way our judgment works, its patterns and its biases. It is a huge work in its scope and application, and I would like to bring the essence to fore. Richard Thaler’s testimonial reads “Buy it fast, read it slowly, it will change the way you think.” This book really cannot be read fast as it needs stopping often and thinking regularly.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow’ is about the ways in which our judgment, Intuition, and biases work in real life. The book refers to many experiments done by the author himself and those done by other researchers. Daniel writes, “This book presents my current understanding of judgment and decision making, which has been shaped by psychological discoveries of recent decades.”

“My main aim here is to present a view of how the mind works that draws on recent developments in cognitive and social psychology. One of the most important developments is that we now understand the marvels and the flaws of intuitive thought.”

Intuition is a common happening. We arrive at some conclusion quickly and without any logic, and later find that our intuition was right. Intuition may influence some very significant decisions, for example, hiring managers make hiring decisions on intuition. A very senior Pharma executive once said to us, a group of then junior managers, “How do you hire? You hire on your gut feeling.” Gut feeling, first impression, sixth sense are all words that are interchangeably used for intuitive thinking.

“The psychologist Gary Klein tells the story of a team of firefighters that entered a house in which the kitchen was on fire. Soon after they started hosing down the kitchen, the commander heard himself shout, “Let us get out of here!” without realizing why. The floor collapsed almost immediately after the firefighters escaped. Only after the fact did the commander realize that the fire had been unusually quiet and that his ears had been unusually hot. Together, these impressions prompted what he called a ‘sixth sense of danger’. He had no idea what was wrong, but he knew something was wrong. It turned out that the heart of the fire had had not been in the kitchen but in the basement beneath where the men had stood.”

Some years back, a Professor of Internal Medicine in Karachi told me about his experience. “When I was doing postgraduation, I was almost living 24 hours in the hospital. It would routinely happen that I would hear a particular sound of a patient in the ward at night and know intuitively what was wrong”. Herbert Simon, another great, however, is against ‘mythologizing’ of expert intuition. He writes, “The situation has provided a cue, this cue has given the expert access to information stored in memory, and this information provides the answer. Intuition is nothing more or nothing less than recognition.”

I would like to introduce another term here as it would be relevant to further discussion. ‘HEURISTICS’ is defined as ‘a method or set of rules for solving problems other than by algorithm’. Basically, it means solving a problem through an isolated method rather than looking at the entire pattern. The practical implication of this is when we try to arrive at an intuitive conclusion in cases which are quite complex. When the problem is simple, an expert would find a solution by intuition quickly. “When the question is difficult and a skilled solution is not available, intuition still has a shot. An answer may come to mind quickly – but it is not an answer to the original question. [The] essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.” This is the ‘Fast Thinking’ part from the title of the book.

“The spontaneous search for an intuitive solution sometimes fails – neither an expert solution nor a heuristic answer comes to mind. In such cases, we often find ourselves switching to a slower, more deliberate, and effortful form of thinking. This is the Slow Thinking of the title”

This is the simple (rather simplistic) introduction to the great work done by Daniel Kahneman. In the next two parts, we shall try to summarize the key learnings from his book. It would be a huge task because the entire book is worth reading, assimilating, enjoying, and applying.

To be Continued.

Disclaimer. Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images which does not show anyone’s copyright claim. However, if any such claim is presented, we shall remove the image with suitable regrets.

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