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The Power of Intuition. How to use your gut feelings to make better decisions at work.
by Gary Klein
review by Riccardo Paterni

Gary Klein is, according to FastCompany, a “fearless thinker...(who) had the courage to bet his career on the hunch that people have grossly underestimated the power of gut instinct”. I have had the pleasure to meet Dr.Klein in person and I “got infected” by his fearless thinking to the point that I proudly edited the translation of this book in Italian and I wrote an Afterword to the book linking its ideas and findings to the Italian cultural social and productive context (the book was published in July 2006 by Guerini & Associati - Milan and during the months of February and March 2007 I'll present it in locations across Italy facilitating seminars / debates on the topic of book - more info on the Italian edition at this link).

Klein’s work and research findings tend to be unconventional and counterintuitive (now that we can learn what intuition really is...) on many of the topics part of today’s management ideas and fads (planning and organizational learning being just some of them). What makes Klein’s work interesting is his way to get a real picture of what is actually happening in organizations through sound, pragmatic research focusing on improving the way  we work and enabling us to become aware of and to utilize our full potential.


Intuition: a straightforward approach... there is no magic!

Within this mindset, “The Power of Intuition” becomes a resourceful tool to understand, discover and routinely utilize the dynamics of intuition. Klein elaborates on this topic in a very pragmatic way originated by more than twenty years of research on the behavior of people that have to rely on intuition on a daily basis such as firefighters, U.S. Marine Corps, pilots. This work has shaped Klein’s definition of intuition in a quite straightforward and intriguing sentence: “intuition is the way we translate our experience into action”.

This sentence is the essential foundation of the three parts of the book. Intuition: Ways to build it; Intuition: Ways to apply it; Intuition: Ways to Safeguard it. The three sections are filled with training tools and actual case studies to learn from and relate to. By this approach the reader is brought to realize that intuition is an actual decision making tool we all can develop and learn to utilize; a decision making tool that integrates analysis, it does not replace it and actually Klein himself utilizes intuition by “paying attention to my initial impulses before thinking analytically”.


How to capitalize on experience...

Within a societal and economic context featuring an increasing rapid change, we are facing ever increasing situations requiring an effective and efficient assessment before making choices and taking action. Intuition is a powerful tool to utilize during these instances at both the individual and organizational decision making level. Many of Klein’s observations help us to understand how and why experience can strengthen our innate intuition abilities. The book helps us to understand, make sense of, and properly processes our experiences in empowering and practical ways.

Klein, while articulating the origin and findings of his research and supporting them with actual case studies, helps us to identify strategies and tactics suited to experience our professional lives with a sort of “common sense” approach that unfortunately is no longer common within many organizations. For example: we come to realize that quite common organizational tools such as metrics (quantitative data, statistical analysis etc.) and smart technologies such as Information Technology tools and softwares, if not managed with proper awareness, can actually weaken our ability to make sound and effective decisions. Also we are brought to reflect upon the actual utility of procedures counterbalanced by the drawbacks of their frequent non proper use (and how to avoid it). We also come to understand what makes a person expert in a specific field and what are the best ways to effectively utilize this expertise to satisfy the problem solving issues we are dealing with. And so on, focusing on many day to day operational and strategic organizational topics.


The Human Capital factor...

In my opinion, overall, the big plus of this book consist in outlining some key aspects of the Human Capital’s potential in a clear, straightforward, rationally sound and engaging way. In fact, the tools presented by Klein make us realize how it is possible to turn into  “hard” many of the “soft skills” we often find ourselves talking about. There is a lot we still need to learn about ourselves and we can learn it most by realizing that, as Klein states, “we don’t always know what we know”. Intuition is a case in point of this!

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