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on May 20, 2014
Gary Klein is a cognitive psychologist who has "gone native," shifting his focus from the laboratory to the messy world of firefighters, tank commanders, and other naturalistic decision makers. Their work environments are defined by "...time pressure, high stakes, experienced decision makers, inadequate information, ill-defined goals, poorly defined procedures, cue learning, context, dynamic conditions, and team coordination." Instead of cataloging their errors, Klein has identified the mental capabilities that help them succeed. His book presents these "sources of power" for our consideration.

These sources of power include:

- Intuition depends on the use of experience to recognize key patterns.
- Mental simulation is the ability to imagine people and objects through transformations.
- Spotting leverage points means spotting small changes that can make a big difference.
- Experience can be used to focus attention on key features that novices don't notice.
- Stories bring natural order to unstructured situations and emphasize what is important.
- Metaphors apply familiar experiences to new situations to suggest solutions.
- Communicating intentions in a team helps members "read each other's minds."
- Effective teams evolve a "team mind" with shared knowledge, goals, and identity.
- Rational analysis plays an important role, but can be over applied.

The author spends some time with other theories of decision making, emphasizing both their strengths and the sometimes faulty assumptions they incorporate. He makes good points about the inadequacy of decision bias theories to explain successful, real-world decision processes. Klein describes how artificial intelligence and other computational theories reduce decision making to a search through a well-defined set of alternatives. Most decisions, he argues, are not so well structured.

Klein likes to stay close to his data. The book reflects this in the space given to detailed decision making examples he has used to develop and test his theories. In addition to a traditional Table of Contents and lists of Tables and Figures, there is also a list of fifty-two Examples, allowing readers quick access to these cases. Klein also links his theories back to decision making contexts he expects readers to encounter. Each chapter ends with an Applications section that identifies practical implications for decisions out there in the world.

This is a thought-provoking book, grounded in both applied research and practical experience. It is profitable reading for anyone who strives to make better decisions.
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on November 24, 2015
Whether intentionally or not, Klein rebukes the attitude of indifference (and sometimes outright disdain) that some organizations, and perhaps society at large, exhibit with respect to experience in the work force. This extends even to the practice of deliberately shedding experienced people (on the grounds that they become "too costly"), replacing experts with "cheaper" novices who, in their turn, will be replaced by novices at just about the same time that they become worth what they're paid.
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VINE VOICEon February 26, 2013
Dr. Klein does an outstanding job of taking a complex (and often misunderstood) topic and creating a frame work that is both logical and supported by data.

Dr. Klein points out that in times of extreme stress people do not have time to make long, measured decisions. Experienced decision makers tend to see patterns and base decisions very quickly on best fits. When decision makers have a little more time, they tend to run mental simulations of events very quickly just to see if courses of action are feasible.

This was a quick, easy to understand approach to a complex problem area.

In service,

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on May 16, 2017
This was a great book. I learned a lot, and used what I learned to teach those I lead to understand their intuition and experience better. Its hard to find good books, but this one is one I am glad I discovered.
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on April 30, 2015
This book covers topics that I couldn't find anywhere else and have been looking to find for many years. If you are interested in how decision makers evaluate situations and generate courses of action quickly while under pressure, then I think you will enjoy this book. The author has many examples of decision making in many walks of life and his conclusions are supported by experimental evidence. I think this is a book you can use to improve your own crisis decision making.
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on March 31, 2012
This is a book very much along the lines of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell but in my opinion it dives deeper into the understanding of how people actually make decisions. Gladwell's book is certainly very interesting and highly recommended but this book is probably for those that wish to take the next step in their understanding of the decision process.

The book is easy to read and very engaging. It provides real world examples of how good and bad decision were made and the processes behind these. It shows how people that make decisions under extreme stress and time constraints do so based not only on their experiences but by using other techniques to cope with the situation faced. It demonstrates how intuition and simulation play a key role in effective decision making processes and how important non-linear thinking can be.

If you are at all interested in the process of decision making and how experienced people are able to make good decisions under pressure then this book is for you. If you are looking for a deeper treatment of the concepts and examination of decision making, beyond books like Blink, then this certainly is the book for you. It is probably not a book that you can completely digest in on reading. I believe, like most good reference books, it is something that you need to revisit on a regular basis as your experiences grow. It should then start help you filling in the pieces as to the decision making process.

An excellent read and something that should be added to the shelf of anyone looking to understand and make better decisions.
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on July 5, 2011
Most of what you know about decision-making is wrong but you'll have to read the book to find out why. Face it about eighty percent of what you know about decision-making is useless. The thesis of this book is that we make decisions based on patterns (recognition primed decision or RPD). This is the model that most of us use most of the time and that a few people are really good at in specific contexts. The other model we use is when we don't know anything about the domain. That's when we collect a lot of information and use it poorly to come up with a decision that makes us feel good. Klein points out (a) that domain experts don't often make decisions consciously they select a course of action based on stuff the rest of us miss and (b) that we really need to learn to train like experts.

The only thing missing is the old story about the plant expert that charged 99 cents for taping on a console with a small hammer and $999.99 for knowing where to tap.

Klein is incredibly readable for an academic and makes lots of use of case studies in the book. Fascinating.
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on April 25, 2017
Raised my decision making ability by ten points. I can now choose restaurants when my wife asks what I want for dinner. Buy the book!
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on January 5, 2013
This book is based on close study of real decision making, such as by firefighters, medical staffs, and military commanders. Thanks to its naturalistic-anthropological approach, Klein's work is much more significant than most of the studies of experimental decision psychology in quasi-laboratory conditions, for instance on rather simple choices facing probabilistic uncertainty -- which reveal heuristics and biases that are interesting, but of narrow significance.
Instead of the conclusions on human "irrationality" arrived at by simplistic experiments, this book demonstrates that experience-based expertize achieves high quality decision skills, partly on tacit levels. These include, for instance, recognition-primed decision making, mental simulation, and making sense of complex situations by building fitting "stories, metaphors and analogues, though a number of error propensities must be guarded against.
The findings must in part be taken with caution, as they are based on oral reporting by actors on what they are thinking, which is not very reliable as recognized by the author (e.g. p. 291). But, all in all, this is a very important book providing findings and models of profound importance for all dealing with series of choices enabling development of expertize.
However, from my concerns with high-level policy making and criticl political judgment the book is of little help, as recognized by the author (e.g. p. 282, though not adequately discussed. Thus, to take the Cuban Missile Crisis, public health policies, choices on energy sources, or the Arab-Israeli conflict, with their singular features and radical uncertainties, little in the book is relevant. Even less so is it applicable to fully novel issues, such as coping with the unprecedented opportunities and dangers provided by science and technology, such as human enhancement, mass-killing materials, and obsolescence of standard employment patterns.
All these require new decision making paradigms, based on some combination between in-depth study of historic future-weaving choices, more adequate understanding of human minds, and novel conceptions of "high-quality judgment" viewed inter alia as fuzzy gambling for high stakes. This is beyond the book.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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on July 29, 2005
I will not repeat many of the fine reviews already posted. What I will say is that "Sources of Powers" looks at how real experienced people make REAL decisions in the field as opposed to traditional research where decision making is researched via students as "lab rats" in unrealistic situations. You will learn about NDM (Naturalistic Decision Making)/RPD (Recognition Primed Model) as it can apply to the developement of decision support systems and command and control systems. DoD has used these concepts to develop collaborative and DSS applications that decision makers will actually use. If you will be involved in the development of DSS or collaborative type software then you should give this textbook a read. This book is very popular with DoD and as a reading assignment in several universities.

More comments on my views of the booK:

Gary Klein would be the first to say that some of his concepts are a work in process and NDM (Naturalistic Decision making) is not just one man or one concept such as RPM (Recognition-primed decision model). Klein begins the dialog on the nature of decision making and how it can be incorporated into decision support systems and knowledge based systems. I believe knowledge based applications will be the trend in the next ten years or so and lots of money will be wasted when one does not properly consider the cognitive issues involved in development.

Some may say that Gary is guilty of stating the obvious but all too often the obvious is ignored because...well it's obvious. Also, lab rats and college students are not necessarily what/who you need to study when looking at how experienced decision makers make decisions. NDM (naturalistic decision making) offers an alternative to the rational choice strategy (see Herbert A. Simon). In the rational choice strategy the decision maker:

1. Identifies the set of options

2. Identifies the ways of evaluating these options.

3. Weights each evaluation dimension.

4. Does the rating

5. Picks the options with the highest score.

Throughout the book Gary shows that the rational choice strategy is seldom used by experienced decision makers. One alternative to this framework is NDM and one instance of this is RPM. For those not versed in cognitive science, RPM may offer an easy to understand content validation on how experts make decisions:

* It appears to describe the decision strategy used most frequently by people with experience.

* It explains how people can use experience to make difficult decisions.

* It demonstrates that people can make effective decisions without using a rational choice strategy.

Can RPM's logic be incorporated into command and control and decision support systems? DoD has examples where that has been done.

I think the biggest issue is no decision model (good or bad) is brought into the design and left up to the IT developers and programmers who certainly do not have the decision skills to embed that knowledge. Too often the decision makers have been left out of the equation because it was thought to be more of an IT thing and the result is a failed information system. As Klein states:

"Too often software designers are not told what key decisions are that the system must help the operator or heuristics that the operator is likely to use. Left without any way to visualize the operator, designers do the best job they can to pack information onto screens so that it will all be there when needed."

Many users of DSS and KM have been victims of such a process of "packing/" Those that do use some decision model, often tend to select optimization models which may have their place but may not be relevant to the context and type of decision maker that will use the system. These types of optimization models tend to be more useful for junior decision makers but there can be a case made that optimization models could be used to bring experienced people out of a certain mind set.

Klein edited an earlier book written by various practitioners if you are interested in delving further but I think "Sources of Power" gives you a good overview of NDM. What I like about NDM is the fact that extensive work has been done with experienced decision makers. Decision making is messy and you can't just "study" it with student test subjects on campus in my opinion.

Decision making is a personal thing that is also influenced by context for example the emotional stress sometimes linked with decision making under crises. Gary Klein in a sense says that you can't ignore that emotion because decision making is personal and any IT support has to be in harmony with the decision maker(s). These questions should be asked and discussed and certainly NDM is but one concept in the vast world of decision making theory that goes beyond the basic decision model of Herbert A. Simon.
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