The Power of Intuition

The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work

Author: Gary Klein


This book is based on the premise that intuition is fundamental to decision-making. The author established this principle in his previous work, Sources of Power. He defines intuition as ‘the way we translate our experience into action’, and he demonstrates that intuition improves the quality of decisions. The book argues that intuitive skills, such as pattern recognition and good mental models, enable people to ‘make effective decisions without conducting deliberate analysis’ (pages 22-27). The author asserts that ‘those who do not or cannot trust their intuitions are less effective decision makers’ (pages 4-5). Whilst acknowledging the importance of analytical decision-making, he affirms that good analysis depends on good intuition (page 64 and 74). The book shows that intuition has valuable troubleshooting potentials because it has the power to detect problems long before people are consciously aware that anything is wrong (page 106).

Doe Zantamata Your intuition feels what your eyes can’t see. Trust it. BK on Flikr.

In this book, the author sets out to define the limitations of intuition and how to mitigate them. He refers particularly to the complex and complicated situations in which patterns are difficult to recognise (page 67). He referred to the capacity of intuition to mislead experts such as when their established routines and restricted mindsets mislead them ‘to miss relevant novel clues, to ignore potentially useful strategies, and to fail to notice important opportunities‘ (page 70). The book refers to the way institutional practices, such as excessive reliance on procedures and decision aids, may impede the development of intuitive skills (pages 33-34).

The major focus of the book is on the strategies which people may adopt to improve the reliability of their intuitions. These include mental simulation to evaluate options (page 83); mental conditioning programmes to ‘provide simulated experiences’ (page 51); and deliberate practice to build ‘a richer experience base and stronger mental models’ (pages 36-38). The author explores several intuitive training strategies to deal with problems arising from uncertainty. These include learning to identify untrustworthy information, delaying decisions while searching for more data, increasing attentive monitoring of situations, and making sensible assumptions about missing data. The book revisits the important application of intuition in preemptively preventing errors; one such strategy the author emphasises is the PreMortem exercise, a technique he says helps to train intuitions to identify vulnerabilities in a plan (pages 96-100).

GlideScope practice. AllieKF on Flikr.

The author, a research psychologist, offers several solutions to the difficulties that arise when relying on intuition. He advocates, for example, good sensemaking and storybuilding to prevent mental fixation and to break mindsets (pages 144-146). He recommended coaching strategies to build intuitive skills, and he proposed cognitive task analysis to ‘help people unpack their intuitions’ (page 222-230). The book explored tactics to manage uncertainty and build decision scenarios (pages 121-126), advising people to aim for fast and good judgments rather than aspiring for perfect but delayed decisions (page 80). He proposed ways of generating creative solutions with his 7 tactics for directed creativity and ten tips for intuitive decision-making (pages 161 and 282-287).

Indecision dice. Anne-Lise Heinrichs on Flikr.

Throughout the book the author gives practical examples of the strategies he recommends. For example he referred to Marine Corps rifle squad leaders who use decision-making exercises (DMXs) to strengthen their intuitions (pages 39-44). Another example is the application of mental simulation by chess grandmasters to perfect their game (page 85).

By Thomas Eakins – scan from art bookMetropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain, Link


This is an important contribution to the subject of decision-making. It builds on the established importance of intuition in this process, but goes further to outline how to improve this important skill. The suggestions are practical and the author describes them in detail. I found the authors reliance on text-boxes distracting and the exercises too numerous. The concepts are however clear enough, and the principles well-established, that the value of the book is not diminished by these minor shortcomings.

Overall assessment

Decision-making is a key healthcare skill, and this book shows how to improve the intuitive skills central to making judgments. The strategies it described are central to healthcare decisions, and I highly recommend the book to all doctors.

Book details

  • Publisher, Place, Date: Currency Books, New York, 2003
  • Number of chapters: 17
  • Number of pages: 333
  • ISBN: 978-0-385-50289-4
  • Star rating:
  • Price: £13.09


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