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Insight & Intuition

Judgments based on intuition seem mysterious because intuition doesn’t involve explicit knowledge. It doesn’t involve declarative knowledge about facts. Therefore, we can’t explicitly trace the origins of our intuitive judgments. They come from other parts of our knowing. They come from our tacit knowledge and so they feel magical. Intuitions sometimes feel like we have ESP, but it isn’t magical, it’s really a consequence of the experience we’ve built up.

An Introduction from Daniel Kahenman

Gary Klein is a living example of how useful applied psychology can be when it is done well. Klein is first and mainly a keen observer. He looks at people who are good at their job as they exercise their skills, sometimes in life-and-death situations, and he reports what he sees in clear and eloquent prose. When you read his descriptions of real experts at work, you feel that it is the job of theorists to accommodate what he has seen – instead of doing what we often do, which is to scan the “real world” (when we think of it at all) for illustrations of our theoretical notions. Many of us in cognitive and social psychology are engaged in the important exercise that Lee Ross has wonderfully described as “bottling phenomena” and our theories are built to fit what we bottle. Klein himself is a theorist as well as an observer, but his theoretical ideas start from what he does for a living: they are intended to describe and explain a large chunk of behavior in a context that matters. It is instructive to note which of the concepts that are current in academic psychology turn out to be useful to him.

Klein and I disagree on many things. In particular, I believe he is somewhat biased in favor of raw intuition, and he dislikes the very word “bias.” But I am convinced that there should be more psychologists like him, and that the art and science of observing behavior should have a larger place in our thinking and in our curricula than it does at present.

What are the effective ways that allow people to develop expertise, and to use expertise while still being able to monitor their ideas, and monitor their actions?

Too often it’s treated as a real dichotomy, and too many organizations that I study try to encourage people to just follow procedures, just follow the steps, and to be afraid to make any mistakes. The result is that they stamp out insights in their organization. They stamp out development of expertise in their organization, and they actually reduce the effectiveness and the performance of the organizations. So how do you blend those is an issue.

Read the entire transcript or watch it on video.

Klien is the author of Sources of Power: How We Make Decisions and The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work.