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Book Review: Intuition At Work

Gary Klein, an acclaimed business researcher, demystifies the role intuition plays when making business decisions.
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Intuition At Work
by Gary Klein, Ph.D.
Currency/Doubleday
311 pages
$26.00

Gary Klein, an acclaimed business researcher, believes that intuition plays a huge role in the workplace. Using the results of two decades of research on intuition and its place in critical decisions, Klein demystifies the role intuition plays when making business decisions, such as hiring new employees and signing pivotal deals. In Intuition at Work, he provides data that encourages readers to trust their instincts, and writes that intuition is an essential and learnable skill that anyone can master and use to improve job performance.

According to Klein's research, people base most of their critical decisions on intuition. This makes it an important subconscious decision-making tool that originates from an ability to recognize patterns and interpret cues. As we increase our experiences, Klein explains, we develop our intuitive skills.

Klein presents intuition as a natural outgrowth of experience and preparation. He defines intuition as "the way we translate experience into action." By interviewing corporate executives, firefighters, emergency medical staff, soldiers and others, Klein demonstrates that it is a skill that can be improved. By providing readers with specific ways they can develop intuition, he helps them become more confident and successful.

A Natural Extension of Experience

Klein adopts a "muscular" view of intuition that treats it as a skill that can be acquired through exercise. He says that intuition decision-making improves as we "acquire more patterns, larger repertoires of action scripts, and richer mental models." By offering a proper technique for improving intuition that is based on a smart training program with progressive goals, Klein provides a fitness program to help readers develop their intuition. Instead of passively waiting for these skills to take shape from experience, he offers ways to speed up the process. By breaking his book into three sections, each with a distinct goal, he shows readers how they can:

1. Build Intuition. This begins with understanding what intuition is and learning methods for building skills in intuitive decision making and understanding how to blend intuition with analysis.

2. Apply Intuition. Klein shows readers how they can apply intuition more effectively in the workplace. He provides tools for using intuition to make decisions, notice problems, manage uncertainty, diagnose situations, invent new approaches, and adapt old ones.

3. Safeguard Intuition. Many obstacles can get in the way of intuitive decision making. Klein presents ways to protect decisions from these stumbling blocks and shows readers how to communicate intuitive decisions more effectively, help others become more experienced, properly use metrics and quantitative data, and recognize and defend against the negative effects of information technologies.

From Executives to New Hires

Klein's book aims to help executives use their gut instincts to get it right when much is riding on the results of their decisions. He explains that senior executives can benefit from his research and lessons because they often must know where their intuitions are coming from and be able to convince others to take their intuitions seriously. Accurate intuition can also benefit mid-level managers by setting them apart from their peers and establishing them as crucial parts of an organization. Klein writes that even new hires and those with new roles in an organization need to build intuitive decision skills as quickly as possible to help them avoid frustration, bad habits and poor attitudes.

Why We Like This Book

Intuition at Work presents both a practical and a theoretical view of developing intuition skills, and presents numerous decision games and exercises to help readers experience the different aspects of intuitive decision making. By moving the field out of the magical realm of ESP and into the more realistic domain of exercise, practice and experience, Klein is able to help readers accumulate the experiences that are needed to overcome the barriers to intuition.

Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Last updated: May 7, 2003




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