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Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making (Bradford Books) Hardcover – September 4, 2009

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I know of no one who combines theory and observation--intellectual rigor and painstaking observation of the real world--so brilliantly and gracefully as Gary Klein."--Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and Blink

(Malcolm Gladwell)

"Gary Klein has taken aim at attempts to base decision making on analytic reasoning. To his credit, he does not claim that analytic decision models are useless. He argues that they are limited, and he shows how and why. Klein shows the importance of human understanding and experience as alternatives to analytic models, especially in complex and dynamic situations. He makes his point with many excellent examples, drawn both from his own extensive experience and from the literature. This is a book that should be read by anyone with a serious interest in how decisions ought to be made, whether by humans or machines." Earl Hunt , Professor Emeritus, University of Washington

"I know of no one who combines theory and observation—intellectual rigor and painstaking observation of the real world—so brilliantly and gracefully as Gary Klein." Malcolm Gladwell , author of Outliers and Blink

About the Author

Gary Klein is a Senior Scientist at Applied Research Associates. He is the author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions (1999) and the coauthor of Working Minds: A Practitioner's Guide to Cognitive Task Analysis (2006), both published by the MIT Press.


Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (September 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262013398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262013390
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Gary Klein is a cognitive psychologist and the author of five books, including Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions and his most recent work, Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights. He regularly works with leaders in domains such as healthcare, military, law enforcement, petrochemical industry, social work, and business management to assist them with issues in organizational expertise and workplace insights. Dr. Klein is well known for his ability to communicate complex ideas in psychology through compelling and relatable stories from his research in expertise and decision-making. He has received praise from intellectual icon and storyteller, Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote, "No one has taught me more about the complexities and mysteries of human decision-making than Gary Klein."

Dr. Klein is widely known for changing the landscape of cognitive psychology by pioneering the Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) movement in 1989. Until this point, psychologists used laboratory settings to study how people make decisions, with a heavy focus on human bias and error in judgment. Dr. Klein flipped the focus to conducting decision research in real world settings, studying how experts including firefighters, military battle commanders, and doctors use intuition and experience to engage in effective decision-making. As one would expect, Dr. Klein's radical new take on cognitive psychology research invited opposition from the traditional community. What is notable, however, is the respect Dr. Klein has received from psychologists and researchers whose perspectives have differed dramatically from his own. As Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman wrote in a recent article, "Gary Klein is a living example of how useful applied psychology can be when it is done well...Klein and I disagree on many things...But I am convinced that there should be more psychologists like him."

Dr. Klein currently works as a Senior Scientist at MacroCognition LLC in Dayton, Ohio and recently started a new company in 2014, ShadowBox LLC, which develops training for organizations that allows novices to think like the experts. He is also a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), and received the 2008 HFES Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert Barcus on October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is fascinating and wonderfully well written. I have read Dr. Klein's previous works and followed his rise in the world of decision making. The book was very engaging, starting with a little pre-test about the reader's attitudes about 10 principles of performance improvement. He uses these ten questions as the backbone of his structure.
As he addresses each one in turn he explains what you are about to learn; tells you about it; illustrates it with examples that read like good mystery stories(many quite personal; explains what the example illustrates; and tops it off with a disclaimer where he acknowledges the limitations and competing arguments. This pattern repeats with examples coming every few pages. Of course he reiterates what we've learned in a clear,brief chapter summary. This guy knows how to help you learn. He doesn't just drill you with information. He educates and most importantly entertains. I loved it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Merwin Swanson on November 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have gone through life assuming that following through on a plan was a key to good management. Fact is, however, that my plans are sometimes fuzzy and, when, clear, I haven't followed them. And I have managed to get through a career with modest success and thanking the organizational gods that no one found out I was a muddling through. Without specifically endorsing a muddle-through approach, Gary Klein's _Streetlights and Shadows_ does make clear that most decision-making in the real world, regardless of any plan-organize-and-follow-through model, involves a healthy dose of adjusting, re-directing, accommodating,and adapting.

What Klein does is explain that his is the norm in any organization's activities and provides suggestions/insights into how to accept that plans often must change and how to make the changes. One suggestion: Assume that the plan your embarking on has failed. What are the most likely reasons that your plans did not work out? What should you have alerted you to the problem? How could you have adjusted?

Klein's style is readable and full of specific examples and anecdotes to support his general observations.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The growing gap between those with technical literacy and those can be closed, in part, by explaining technical findings using stories. Those who make the greatest impact on our views and the way we do things are expert as using stories to illustrate their points. Dr. Klein has collected a career's worth of insights and illustrates them with compelling stories that make this an easy-to-read, easy-to-comprehend volume that will enable readers to apply the important arguments he shares. My own investigations into government acquisition and healthcare information technology are threaded with people's desires to "remove the artistry" from practice and replace it with standardization. Dr. Klein makes compelling, and what I hope are broadly accepted, arguments for growing, supporting and taking best advantage of expertise -- rather than remove the artistry, he shows the advantage of focusing instead on creating more artists. "Streetlights and Shadows" is a highly useful volume for program managers, systems and specialty engineers that, once picked up, is hard to put down.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gojko on November 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Gary Klein's book Sources of Power, and I keep quoting it often in workshops and lectures. Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making is a follow-up to Sources of Power, published 10 years later. Although it's not exactly fresh meat, it only recently came to the top of my book queue. With the topic of adaptive decision making, this book fits in nicely with the recent trends in software delivery. My impression of the book was not as mind-blowing as Sources of Power, but it was certaintly thought-provoking enough to deserve a strong recommendation.

The key thread in the book is examining the relationship between analysis and intuition, largely comparing standard procedures and skills based on experience. `The way we see in bright light differs from the way we see in shadows. Neither is the "right" way. We need both.' is a quote that summarises Klein's argument well. He examines contexts in which standardising ways of doing things helps and the contexts where that hurts, in particular with skilled performers, showing that experts mostly rely on heuristics drawn from stories instead of rules. There are many nice stories in the book about decision biases, but often arguing for the oposite conclusion from most popular psychology books. Klein discredits most of the research on decision biases and exposing how reasoning strategies can lead to errors because they were done using college students performing tasks that are unfamiliar, artificial, and relatively independent of context. His idea is that biases aren't distorting our thinking, but instead reflect our thinking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Scott Shipman on February 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Klein delivers the goods on methodologies of adaptive decision making in complex environments. He takes on eleven largely believed maxims (such as "Its bad to jump to conclusions---wait to see all the evidence.") and demonstrates the inherent weakness of these commonly held beliefs. Klein discusses in detail decision making, expertise, adapting, and sense-making. He uses real-world examples from meteorology to the military to demonstrate a uncommon approach to adaptive decision making. If your organization needs flexibility and adaptability, Mr. Klein's title will provide insights that should not be ignored. Highly recommended.
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