Reading” in Blink: The Power of Thinking
Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. I read
this book a few years ago and re-reading
that chapter was a priority after returning
home. In Blink, Gladwell offers his account
of seemingly instantaneous judgement. The
book includes fascinating case studies, skilled
interweaving of psychological experiments
and explanations, and unexpected
connections among disparate phenomenon.2
Chapter six describes interviews with police
officers and their recollection of shooting
events. One thing that is consistent is that
there are a strange series of events as retold
by the officers.
One concept in this chapter is “the
optimal state of arousal.” The optimal state
of arousal is considered to be the range in
which stress improves performance. Per
the author’s research, this occurs when our
heart rate is between 115 and 145 beats per
minute (BPM). After 145 BPM, bad things
begin to happen, such as complex motor
skills starting to break down. At 175 BPM,
there is an absolute breakdown of cognitive
processing, and the individual becomes
clumsy and helpless.
This made me begin to think about
ECOs. Are there specific events that would
get our blood pressure in the range to begin
acting with such clarity? It’s possible that it’s
the hotline call that is not HR-related and
requires a compliance investigation. Perhaps
it is the moment when an organization
learns that it is under a ransomware attack
and initiates a remediation plan. Maybe
it’s the moment that operations reveals
that a previous decision now requires
As mentioned earlier, the subconscious
mind plays a role in split-second decisions.
Gladwell addresses stereotypes and
prejudices in the same chapter. Research
suggests that when split-second decisions
are made, individuals are vulnerable to
being guided by stereotypes and prejudices,
even ones that we may not necessarily
endorse or believe. The shorter the period,
the greater the inaccuracies of the split-
second decision. This is classified as time
pressure. Under time pressure, individuals
stop relying on the actual evidence of
their senses and fall back on a rigid and
unyielding system, a stereotype.
Time pressure reminded me of schedule
pressure. Schedule pressure is one of the
lessons learned from the NASA space
shuttle tragedies of Apollo 1, Challenger,
and Columbia. 3 At the 2017 Compliance
Institute, Space X astronaut Garrett Reisman
shared that reduced schedules to meet
earlier deadlines increases the likelihood of
unresolved and/or ignored risk mitigation.
In this two-day FBI experience, the FBI
didn’t make claims that they had an infallible
system or approach to law enforcement.
They demonstrated their commitment to
continuous development of their program by
learning from their experiences, the private
sector, current events, and conducting their
research. From an ECOs perspective, the FBI’s
training program validates an organization’s
potential with support from the C-suite. This
was a great experience, and I encourage all
eligible individuals to participate in this event
if given the opportunity. As homework, we
were told to review Tennessee vs. Garner (1985)
and Graham vs. Connor (1989) to learn more
about deadly force. ✵
1. Malcolm Gladwell: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.
Little, Brown and Company, 2005.
2. Howard Gardner: “Basic Instinct” The Washington Post, January 16,
2005. Available at http://wapo.st/2yr0O88.
3. Walter Johnson: “Mission control: An astronaut’s message to
compliance officers” Compliance Today, 2017; 17(Special Edition): 9.
Walter E. Johnson ( email@example.com) is Director of Compliance
& Ethics at a federal government contracting firm located in Fairfax, VA.