Normally, I do not get much of a chance to read anything more enlightening apart from social work books or even social work documents. Recently, I have been pushing passed my comfort zone and reading titles that seem to be in keeping with social work and the application of processing and analytical thinking akin to social work. It is important not to be too blinkered.
Many of you may already have read Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, but I had not. After reading his wonderful book “Outliers”, I got hooked on Malcolm Gladwell. His book Blink is a study in intuition and how we make snap decisions.
As a social work manager, this interested me greatly. The book talks about how in the moment of less than a few seconds or even milliseconds, we can come to conclusions that may turn out to be a game winners which can be achieved in many aspects of life. The usefulness for social work is how we use intuitive practice which is seldom discussed in analytical and reflective theory, but most of us know it is sometimes a pivotal part in coming up with judgements and making decisions.
Using the tool of intuition has been something I have been aware of in my social work career; played out by nebulous feelings of something “not being quite right”, the body language being displayed, the reason why I felt I should talk to the neighbours, how the social worker told me about the visit as opposed to what she told me about the visit etc.
Our intuition as social workers is often in the context of a jigsaw puzzle coming together. I mean we have an intuition, we test it in some way, it sits at the back of our head and then another piece of information or act or referral comes about to prove that intuition right. Often that added piece of the jigsaw is what we would call evidence, a disclosure from a child, an actual injury sustained or another incident.
In Blink Malcolm Gladwell gives plenty of carefully researched information about all aspects of this process in all sorts of professions, including Psychology, Tennis, Food tasting, Military and even Speed Dating. His main finding, which I take careful note and reflected strongly on in my own situation, is how it is so easy to accept that these professionals are able through development of their expertise and skill (over 2 decades) to be seen as able to use the power of intuition, acceptable to their peers, the author and society at large.
What I would like to see is social work professionals reflecting on our use of intuition based on years of experience and skills that helps us to make reflective and well balanced decisions. Then intuition could be seen in our profession as in other professions as a valuable evidenced based tool and social work students could be trained to see how this could be used to aid good outcomes for vulnerable people.
Gradle Gardner Martin is a UK registered Social Worker, and the owner of Continuing Professional Development Social Work Training an online membership site for Locum Social Workers and Independent Social Workers.
She also runs an Online Direct Work Equipment Company called Elevate Elevatefor parents, foster carers and social workers to engage with children and adults.
She has been a qualified social work practitioner 27 years and has supervised and managed large areas of front line social work practice.