Wait | Frank Partnoy

Summary of: Wait: The Art and Science of Delay
By: Frank Partnoy


Embark on a journey that explores the power of waiting in various aspects of life, from sports to business to relationships. ‘Wait: The Art and Science of Delay’ by Frank Partnoy delves into the intricacies of timing and the benefits of strategic delay. With captivating examples from tennis, stock trading, subliminal messaging, and decision-making in high-stakes environments, this summary provides valuable insights for those seeking to harness the potential of waiting and rising above the frenetic pace of the modern world.

The Science of Tennis Timing

Tennis is not just about good eyes and quick reactions. It’s about split-second timing, the ability to wait that essential extra moment before returning the ball. Skilled players take in as much visual information as possible before hitting the ball. Most people move as quickly as they can, only to miss the ball altogether. Many sports, including tennis, are designed with this timing challenge in mind. Split-second timing plays an essential role in business and finance too.

The Sweet Spot of High-Frequency Trading

High-frequency trading dominated the markets, accounting for 70% of all US stock transactions. However, the quest for speed does not always lead to higher profits. UNX, a high-frequency trading firm, moved its headquarters to New York to reduce transaction times from 65 to 30 milliseconds, resulting in declining profits. The rapid pace of trading increased the volatility of the market, leading to extreme swings in the value of financial products, as evidenced by the 18-minute stock market crash of May 6, 2010. Yale professor Frank Zhang found that a “sweet” speed, with enough delay to avoid costly mistakes, is optimal for high-frequency trades. Financial experts are now seeking to find that sweet speed, showing that speed isn’t always the solution to higher profits, offering insights on how to make the most out of high-frequency trading.

The Power of Subliminal Messages

Subliminal messages can influence human behavior, even without conscious perception. Studies show that repeated exposure to certain messages or words can affect people’s creativity, memory, and political beliefs. Timing plays a crucial role in how we live and think, as displaying a message just long enough to have an effect but short enough to stay below conscious perception can be a successful strategy for delivering a message.

Decisions in High-Stakes Situations

In high-pressure situations, experts rely on their instincts based on experience, while novices struggle to make decisions without overthinking. A study by psychologist Gary Klein found that fireground commanders and other experts know what to do without deliberation. In contrast, novices cannot trust their instincts as they lack experience. Klein’s study of paramedics and medical students found that professionals could easily identify the best person to perform CPR, while students struggled to choose. However, no one can be an expert in every situation. When presented with something new, even an expert can become a novice, and it’s essential to take your time making decisions. The case of US Navy Captain William Rogers highlights this point. Rogers was an expert at discerning enemy planes from civilian planes, but his access to critical information was cut off, and under pressure, he made the wrong decision, leading to the deaths of 290 civilians in 1988.

Unconscious Racism in Healthcare

Physicians unconsciously show better care to white patients than black patients. Research has confirmed this troublesome fact. People should rethink their initial judgments as it can prove inaccurate when discerning certain characteristics. A 2007 study suggested taking at least five minutes to assess complex human features like sociability and open-mindedness. The unconscious bias of doctors can be changed with proper attention.

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