Sources of Power

How People Make Decisions

by Klein

ISBN: 9780262260862 | Copyright 1998

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Anyone who watches the television news has seen images of firefighters rescuing people from burning buildings and paramedics treating bombing victims. How do these individuals make the split-second decisions that save lives? Most studies of decision making, based on artificial tasks assigned in laboratory settings, view people as biased and unskilled. Gary Klein is one of the developers of the naturalistic decision making approach, which views people as inherently skilled and experienced. It documents human strengths and capabilities that so far have been downplayed or ignored.

Since 1985, Klein has conducted fieldwork to find out how people tackle challenges in difficult, nonroutine situations. Sources of Power is based on observations of humans acting under such real-life constraints as time pressure, high stakes, personal responsibility, and shifting conditions. The professionals studied include firefighters, critical care nurses, pilots, nuclear power plant operators, battle planners, and chess masters. Each chapter builds on key incidents and examples to make the description of the methodology and phenomena more vivid. In addition to providing information that can be used by professionals in management, psychology, engineering, and other fields, the book presents an overview of the research approach of naturalistic decision making and expands our knowledge of the strengths people bring to difficult tasks.

Most studies of decision-making treat humans like rats in a laboratory. But Dr. Klein, a cognitive psychologist, spent a decade watching fire commanders, fighter pilots, paramedics, and others making split-second decisions on the job, and this book is a clear and engaging account of his findings.

Thomas Petzinger, Jr. The Wall Street Journal
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Contents (pg. vii)
Examples (pg. xi)
Figures (pg. xiii)
Tables (pg. xv)
Acknowledgments (pg. xvii)
1 Chronicling the Strengths Used in Making Difficult Decisions (pg. 1)
2 Learning from the Firefighters (pg. 7)
3 The Recognition-Primed Decision Model (pg. 15)
4 The Power of Intuition (pg. 31)
5 The Power of Mental Simulation (pg. 45)
6 The Vincennes Shootdown (pg. 75)
7 Mental Simulation and Decision Making (pg. 89)
8 The Power to Spot Leverage Points (pg. 111)
9 Nonlinear Aspects of Problem Solving (pg. 121)
10 The Power to See the Invisible (pg. 147)
11 The Power of Stories (pg. 177)
12 The Power of Metaphors and Analogues (pg. 197)
13 The Power to Read Minds (pg. 215)
14 The Power of the Team Mind (pg. 233)
15 The Power of Rational Analysis and the Problem of Hyperrationality (pg. 259)
16 Why Good People Make Poor Decisions (pg. 271)
17 Conclusions (pg. 285)
Notes (pg. 295)
References (pg. 309)
Index (pg. 323)

Gary Klein

Gary Klein is a Senior Scientist at Applied Research Associates. He is the author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions (1999) and the coauthor of Working Minds: A Practitioner’s Guide to Cognitive Task Analysis (2006), both published by the MIT Press.

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