Friday, April 22, 2005

I'm glad I waited

I just finished Gary Klein's The Power of Intuition ("the way we translate our experience into action," he writes), and it made me think. I judge new ideas by their utility, their grounding in good research and thought, and their consistency with other ideas I've already found helpful.

That's what made this book initially so attractive. His idea of a Decision Making Exercise (DMX) to strengthen intuition aligned well with Dietrich Dörner's ideas in The Logic of Failure of using simulation for much the same purpose. His Figure 3.1 (page 23 in my copy) showing situations leading to cues, which leads to patterns, which leads to action scripts, which leads back to (changed) situations aligned well with my understanding of action research. I liked the concept of a Decision Requirements Table, a DMX, and a Decision-Making Critique. I liked the pre-mortem and the "recognition-primed decision" (RPD) model. His first and second sections seemed to offer many practical insights that I plan to use more intentionally.

Yet I'm glad I waited to write. The third section of the book bothered me a bit. While he still had good things to offer (including insights on effective coaching), I began to have a "doth protest too much, methinks" feeling with his comments on computer systems. Certainly we've made poor ones, and certainly he noted that computer systems and logical systems are good for some things. Klein's third section seemed to put more emphasis on the bad aspects, as if he were trying to bring too much about decision-making under the intuitive model to support his thesis rather than to support good decisions.

In the end, I'm back to the power of "and" (and so is Klein; his last subsection is called "Balancing Act"). We need multiple lenses through which to view and make sense of reality. Intuition (experience as translated into action) is one lens. Logic is another. Computations are another. If we (if I) let ourselves get too enamored of one approach, we risk making mistakes we don't need to. Perhaps it's related to James Reason's Swiss cheese model: we need a slice of logic, a slice of intuition, a slice of computation, and a slice of process (and perhaps more) to shut all the holes.

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