The Power of Intuition

I read this book as part of my MBA course. The book, written by Gary Klein, is really a way to make effective decisions in life and at work. I found it really insightful and helpful.

The author argues to make decisions based off of developed intuitions through experience. I was hesitant to enjoy the book as I do not trust intuitions. The author addresses this as he allows they can be unreliable and need to be monitored, yet also should not be suppressed. He defines intuition as the way we translate our experience into action.

We shouldn’t simply follow our intuitions. Intuitions are not biases to be suppressed. To make better intuitive decisions, we should concentrate on improving the quality of our intuitions.

When it comes to making decisions, choosing if often enough. In most settings we don’t need the best option – we need to quickly identify an acceptable option.

The following are some tools from the book.

Recognition-Primed Decision Model

  • Cues let us recognize patterns.
  • Patters activate action scripts.
  • Action scripts are assessed through mental stimulation
  • Mental stimulation is driven by mental models.

Organizational policies can affect people’s intuition – the author cautions against counting paper credentials more than experience or heavy dependence on remote teams. Metrics can also be used by organizations to reduce decisions and judgements to procedures.

The key to using intuition effectively is meaningful experience. This can be done through deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is practice with specific objectives in mind.

Decision requirements

  • Decision requirements will be the judgements and decisions that repeatedly arise.
  • Use a Decision Requirements Table on the decisions that matter most to your work or giving you the most trouble.

Decision Requirements Table:

What makes the decision difficult What kind of errors are often made How would an expert make the decision differently from a novice

Once a persons knows what they need to work on, they can seek opportunities to make decisions in a setting where they can receive feedback. They can also speak with others for their experience. This builds experience to improve intuition and make better decisions. We need feedback on our decisions and actions. We need to actively get and interpret the feedback. We need repetitions to practice decisions.

When to use intuitions vs analysis:

  • Use intuitions for decisions when the situation keeps changing or when the time pressure is high or when the goals are fuzzy.
  • Use analysis when there is a lot of computational complexity.
  • Recognize a Zone of Indifference: When two choices are very similar without much that differentiates them

Analytical strategy:

  • Start with intuition – note your preference
  • Accept the zone of indifference – just making a choice is often better than agonizing over the perfect one
  • Map the strengths and weaknesses of options without attaching numbers
  • Use mental simulation to evaluate options
  • Simplify the comparisons
  • Bring in the intuition of an outsider to check on your analysis
  • Don’t try to replace intuitions with procedures

Pre-mortem Exercise:

  1. Preparation
  2. Imagine a fiasco
  3. Generate reasons for failure
  4. Consolidate the lists
  5. Revisit the plan
  6. Periodically review the list

Uncertainty – There are three primary factors of uncertainty:

  1. The source of uncertainty – usually more than imagined
  2. Types of tactics available for handling the uncertainty
  3. Decision makers personal tolerance for ambiguity

Sources of uncertainty:

  1. Missing information
  2. Unreliable information
  3. Conflicting information
  4. Noisy information
  5. Confusing information

Tactics for dealing with uncertainty:

  1. Delaying
  2. Seeking more information
  3. Increasing attention
  4. Filling in gaps with assumptions
  5. Building an interpretation
  6. Pressing on
  7. Shaking the tree – actively shape the environment
  8. Design decision scenarios
  9. Simplify the plan
  10. Prepare for the worst
  11. Use incremental decisions
  12. Embrace the uncertainty

Tactics for Directed Creativity

  1. Present the dilemma
  2. Send the team members off to work alone
  3. Present the ideas
  4. Critique the ideas
  5. Integrate the ideas
  6. Conduct additional rounds
  7. Converge on a solution

Is your stated intent useful?

  • Ask yourself if there is an alternative outcome you do not want to pursue. If there is no alternative, your not telling subordinates anything useful.

How to give directions:

  1. Here’s what I think we face.
  2. Here’s what I think we should do.
  3. Here’s why.
  4. Here’s what we should keep our eye on.
  5. Now, talk to me.

STICC: Situation, Task, Intent, Concerns, Calibration

Why metrics

  • Setting goals
  • Setting tripwires
  • Spotting trends
  • Sense making
  • Regulating performance
  • Ensuring compliance
  • Making comparisons
  • Evaluating and rewarding performance
  • Promoting fairness
  • Helping build stories and mental models

Intuitive decision making:

  • First option you think of is likely the be best
  • Use analysis to support your intuitions
  • Put more energy into understanding the situation than deliberating over what to do
  • Don’t confuse desires with intuitions
  • Override your intuitions when they mislead you
  • Think ahead
  • Uncertainty adds excitement to decision making – if everything lines up neatly, that is a warning sign
  • Use the right decision making strategy – when to use intuition, analysis, accepting zone of indifference
  • Consult the experts
  • Stay alert for intuition barriers