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Exploiting Fast and Slow Thinking

April 2015 Presentation
Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

In this session, Rebecca Wirf discusses how fast and slow thinking affects your decision making.


Software Engineering Institute



 As team leaders or architects, we can benefit from knowing more about how we think, deliberate, and decide. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, explains two systems that drive how we think. System 1 thinking is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberate, and logical.

In this session, you will learn how fast and slow thinking affects your decision making. You’ll explore how common development practices, with an emphasis on agile practices, can amplify your thinking abilities and how they might lead you astray. For example, Given-When-Then behavior-driven development (BDD) scenarios are concrete and specific. They prevent us from leaping to conclusions about expected results. Those same BDD specs can also lead you to believe that’s all there is. The Pomodoro Technique helps block work into manageable chunks, making time for uninterrupted slow thinking. But what else might you do?

Fast thinking works well in familiar contexts. You save time when you don’t have to deliberate over details to make informed decisions. But fast thinking can lead to poor decisions. You might jump to conclusions, be wildly optimistic, or under-assess risks and rewards. You need to exploit both fast and slow thinking on agile projects. And you need to be aware of when fast thinking is tripping you up.

During this session, you will explore some impacts of fast and slow thinking and share where you might need to slow down or speed up. You will practice reframing questions about specific situations in terms of fast and slow thinking. And you’ll identify specific situations where your thinking needs to shift and explore how to make those shifts.