Tuesday 19 June 2018

Sources of Power by Gary Klein

I've been fascinated by books on decision-making since I read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I loved his questioning of whether snap decisions are better ones than well-thought out, over-analysed justified-to-the-end-of-time ones. Gary Klein unpacks this further in Seeing What Others Don't: The remarkable ways we gain Insights.

In that book, he refers quite a bit to this one - especially the stories about decisions made in times of stress - like with firefighters, nurses and those life and death situations, where the importance of good decision making is amplified. What value does intuition have? How do we use it? Should we?

Daniel Kahneman, in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow asks this in a different (and more eloquent) way:

“If subjective confidence is not to be trusted, how can we evaluate the probable validity of an intuitive judgment? When do judgments reflect true expertise? When do they display an illusion of validity? The answer comes from the two basic conditions for acquiring a skill: an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable an opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice When both these conditions are satisfied, intuitions are likely to be skilled. Chess is an extreme example of a regular environment, but bridge and poker also provide robust statistical regularities that can support skill. Physicians, nurses, athletes, and firefighters also face complex but fundamentally orderly situations. The accurate intuitions that Gary Klein has described are due to highly valid cues that the expert ... has learned to use, even if [he] has not learned to name them."

Again, rather than relying on statistical methods and studies, Gary Klein evaluates stories, through interviews about what people were thinking, and how. And the results are fascinating.

 "We have found that people draw on a large set of abilities that are sources of power. The conventional sources of power include deductive logical thinking, analysis of probabilities, and statistical methods. Yet the sources of power that are needed in natural settings are usually not analytical at all - the power of intuition, mental simulation, metaphor, and storytelling. The power of intuition enables us to size up a situation quickly. The power of mental simulation lets us imagine how a course of action might be carried out. The power of metaphor lets us draw on our experience by suggesting parallels between the current situation and something else we have come across. The power of storytelling helps us consolidated our experiences to make them available in the future, either to ourselves or to others. These areas have not been well studied by decision researchers."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the stories, the analysis, the conclusions, the insights. It may feel like common sense, but like salt, you only miss a dose of common sense when it's not in the food you're eating.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780262534291

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