Is Timing Everything? How Daniel Pink’s New Book Can Help Marketers With ‘When’ Decisions

Michael Krauss
Key Takeaways

​What? Daniel Pink’s When is a must-read book, according to Michael Krauss, president of Market Strategy Group.

So what? “Reading When will make you a more effective decision maker, both in your work and your personal life,” Krauss writes. 

Now what? Consider adding When to your book list.

​Daniel Pink’s When can help marketers make better decisions and leave less to chance​

Daniel Pink, the best-selling author of To Sell is Human and Drive, has a new thought-provoker, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.​

When is a must-read for marketers, especially if you are keen to optimize your career prospects, improve your leadership skills, understand consumer behavior or plan a successful campaign. 

As Pink says in his book, “All of us confront a never-ending stream of ‘when’ decisions. When to change jobs? When to schedule a class? When to get serious about a person or a project? Yet we make those decisions haphazardly—based on intuition, hunches and guesswork.”

Reading When will make you a more effective decision maker, both in your work and your personal life. 

Pink discusses when to get married, when to get divorced, when to look for another job, when to ask for a raise—he even explains the origins of the midlife crisis and how to get out of a slump. 

Pink is a former lawyer and political speech writer. Instead of practicing law—a profession that would have been a true waste of time for him—Pink has become a keen analyst of knowledge and aggregator of insightful content that can better our lives. His books and writing style always entertain and enlighten me.

Pink opens When with the story of Captain William Thomas Turner, the seasoned captain of the ill-fated passenger ship Lusitania, which was sunk by a German U-boat less than 100 miles off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, precipitating U.S. entry into World War I. 

On that fateful day, the Lusitania slowed its pace in the early morning due to fog. 

“By noon, though, the fog had lifted, and Turner could spy the shoreline in the distance. The skies were clear. The seas were calm,” Pink writes.

Turner knew there might be U-boats lurking, yet he made a fatal error in decision making: Even though he had the speed to outrun U-boats, he failed to increase his speed to the maximum. He elected to use a complex navigational technique that placed him at risk for an extended period by requiring the ship to maintain a linear course. Zigzagging in U-boat-infested waters would have been the better decision. 

Many historians speculate the 1,200 people who perished that day were the victims of Britain’s desire to encourage the U.S. to enter the war on its side. “Seen through the lens of 21st century behavioral and biological science, the explanation for one of the most consequential disasters in maritime history may be less sinister,” Pink writes. “Maybe Captain Turner just made some bad decisions. And maybe those decisions were bad because he made them in the afternoon.”

Pink describes a body of academic research that shows how our moods and ability to reason follow defined patterns. For some of us, perhaps including Captain Turner, “emotional balance rises in the morning, dips in the afternoon and then rises again in the evening,” Pink writes.

He cites studies which suggest, “sophisticated economic agents acting in real and highly incentivized settings are influenced by diurnal rhythms in the performance of their professional duties.” 


 The Secret of Perfect Timing | Dan Pink | RSA Replay


​​Some of us may be “larks,” who peak in the morning, or “owls” like Thomas Edison, who was most effective in the evening, and a portion of us may be “third birds,” who are at peak performance sometime in the middle.

When is full of nuggets of insight we might use to advance our careers.

I like the story Pink tells about what to do when you are in a career slump. He describes some advice that billionaire investor Warren Buffett provided about regaining one’s traction in life: “Legend has it that one day Buffett was talking with his private pilot, who was frustrated that he hadn’t achieved all that he’d hoped. Buffett prescribed a three-step remedy:  

  • ​First, write down the top 25 goals for the rest of your life.

  • Second, look at the list and circle your top five goals, those that are unquestionably your highest priority.

  • Third, immediately start planning how to achieve those top five goals. And the other twenty? Get rid of them.”

Reading When is fun and fulfilling. Pink will coach you on how to tell a story. He’ll tell you why it might be better to be a point behind at halftime versus a point ahead. He will show you how to recover from an inevitable bad start, on a project or in a career.

Most important, as Pink says at the close of his book, you will learn, “I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe everything is timing.”

Read When and you’ll have more control over the outcomes of your business and personal life.

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Michael Krauss
Michael Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group based in Chicago.