Book Summary – The Power of Intuition: How To Use Your Gut Feelings To Make Better Decisions At Work

Readingraphics February 19, 2017

Real-life decisions are often challenging and complex, time is limited and we don’t have complete information for a fool-proof analysis. This book demystifies the concept of intuition and provides a pragmatic approach to intuitive decision-making. Klein presents intuition not as a magical idea, but as the way in which we translate our experience into judgements, decisions and actions.

The book details how to improve the quality of our intuitions and decisions. The insights and tactics in the book are useful for anyone who wants to make better decisions at the workplace, from senior executives to middle managers and new hires. In this article, we’ll touch on the key ideas in this book.

For detailed case studies and examples to see the process of intuition at work, do get a copy of the book. For an overview of the key ideas and tips, get our complete book summary bundle.

Many of us have been trained to make important decisions only after careful analysis of the pros and cons of all our different options. However, a purely-analytical approach doesn’t work in reality. Real-life decisions are more challenging and complex, time is limited and we don’t have complete and conclusive information for a foolproof analysis.

People like firefighters don’t have the luxury of time to compare and analyse all their options in times of emergencies – they depend on their intuition to literally make life-and-death decisions. Likewise, it’s impossible to analyse every single step and every decision in a typical day. All of us rely on intuition in our daily lives.

Intuition is not about magic or ethereal connection with the unconscious forces, but an extension of our experience.

The Recognition-Primed Decision Model (RPD) explains how this works. Essentially, our brains link perceived cues to patterns and “action scripts” – this pattern-matching process allows us to call up the stored actions when we detect similar patterns. We also test our action scripts or decisions through mental simulation to assess if a specific course of action would work, as summarized in the diagram below. [Get more details on this process from the book and our full book summary].The RPD Model helps us to make decisions without having to reconsider all our options every time. It is also the source of our “hunches”.

In the book, Klein explains why neither intuitions or analyses alone are adequate for sound decisions (get a quick overview in our full book summary). Thus, we shouldn’t blindly follow our intuitions, nor should we suppress them. Klein’s solution is to:
Strengthen our intuition, so we can see things we previously wouldn’t have noticed, and use our intuition reliably and effectively to improve the quality of our decisions;
Use intuition for direction (recognizing situations and deciding how to react), and use analysis to verify your intuition; and
Use a blend of intuition and analysis that suits the situation.

Since intuition is an extension of our experience, it can be trained. However, most of us won’t get enough opportunities to accumulate enough real-life experience, nor can we afford to wait till something happens to learn from our mistakes.

The solution is to steepen our learning curve using intuitive skills training. By practicing important decisions, we accumulate meaningful experience and condition our minds. This in turn improves our mental models, and our ability to recognize patterns and select optimal action scripts.In the book and our full book summary, we elaborate on the 3 key elements of intuitive skills training, including how to:
• Identify and understand the decision requirements of your job.
• Practice these decisions in context; and
• Review Your Decision-Making Experiences.

There are several areas where intuition can be applied at the workplace. Here’s a quick overview – do get more details from the book / summary
Setting the agenda/ managing your time based on the types of decisions involved.
Detecting problems before they get out of hand, by knowing the obstacles to your problem-detection ability and using tools like pre-mortem exercises and reframing.
Managing Uncertainty, by becoming aware of the types/ nature of uncertainty and the tactics you can use.

Sizing up Situations. Make sense of the situation and overcome “background noise”
Directed Creativity, i.e. identifying a goal while figuring how to achieve it, as opposed to random inspiration or group brainstorming.
Improvising and Adapting your Plans

See intuition at work through detailed examples and case studies – get the book now.

In the book, Klein specifically zooms in (in great detail) on several key tools, including:
• The decision requirements table
• The use of Decision-making exercises (DMXs); and
• The decision-making critique (to review incidents).

There are several trends that corrode our opportunities to build intuition, and this segment in the book addresses that. Here’s a quick overview (more details in the book / summary).

Communicating your Intuitive Decision. One challenge of intuitive decision-making is to articulate clearly your “executive intent”, and the book explains how you communicate this clearly.

Coaching others to develop strong intuitions. Master these 3 components to be an effective coach: Assessing and diagnosing, tailoring instructions, and setting the climate (more details in our .

Review these ideas easily with our book summary and infographic!

• Learn to combine metrics and intuition for problem solving

• Our dependency on Smart Technology can create gaps in our mental models and make us stupid, and the book reminds us how to stay alert to, and minimize such interference to our intuition.


One of the biggest values of this book lies in the wide range of case studies and DMXs provided, including nursing, banking, vendor evaluation, architecture, production etc. These help us see the process of intuition at work, so we can start building our mental models through others’ experience.

In particular, Klein walks us through in great detail the process and tips involved in using 3 of his key tools, including:
• The decision requirements table
• The use of DMXs; and
• The decision-making critique (to review incidents).

Do get a copy of the book for these details, get our full book summary for an overview of the key ideas and tips.

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