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The Power of Intuition - Book summary

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, i.e. how to translate our experience into judgement, decisions and actions. In this summary of Gary Klein’s “The Power of Intuition”, we’ll outline the key ideas in the book.

For the full case studies and examples, do get a copy of the book, or get a detailed overview in 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.

Building Your Intuition

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 15-page summaryThe Power of Intuition summary_Recognition-primed decision model RPDThe 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.The Power of Intuition summary_Intuitive Skills Training_3 componentsIn the book and our complete 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.

Applying Intuition at the Workplace

There are several areas where intuition can be applied at the workplace. Here’s a quick overview – do get more details from the book / full summaryThe Power of Intuition summary_using intuition at the workplace
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).

Safeguarding our Intuition

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 / full 15-page summary).

The Power of Intuition summary_safeguarding your intuition

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.

Other Details in “The Power of 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, or get The Power of Intuition summary bundle for an overview of the key ideas and tips.

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Start honing your intuition for better decision-making!

Click here to download The Power of Intuition book summary and infographic

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