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Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,818 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
"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."
-- "The Wall Street Journal" Anyone who watches the television news has seen
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 18th 1999 by Mit Press (first published January 16th 1998)
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Nazrul Buang
Nov 02, 2014 Nazrul Buang rated it really liked it
BOOK REVIEW: Finally finished reading "Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions" (1999) by Gary A. Klein. Firstly, what made me read this book was that it is referred by Daniel Kahneman in his book "Thinking, Fast and Slow".

This book is very different from other psychology books because, while most of them are based on cognitive psychology and scientifically tested in controlled labs, Klein is against all that and the contents are based on applied psychology and empirically observed in real-l
Mar 31, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it
This is a book very much along the lines of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell but in my opinion it dives deeper into the understanding of how people actually make decisions. Gladwell's book is certainly very interesting and highly recommended but this book is probably for those that wish to take the next step in their understanding of the decision process.

The book is easy to read and very engaging. It provides real world examples of how good and bad decision were made and the processes behind these. It
Jul 19, 2009 Nicholas rated it liked it
Shelves: business, psychology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2009 Don rated it it was ok
I'm not really sure how to review this book - imagine you were put in a room and asked 'how do people make decisions' for both crisis situations or planned situations. I would hazard to guess that you would be able to come to the same conclusions much the same way as this book.

Feeling eerily like common sense, this long study (funded by the Dept. of Defense) makes such propositions that experience plays an important role in crisis decisions....etc. etc.

I really learned nothing from this book and
Nelson Rosario
May 25, 2015 Nelson Rosario rated it liked it
This is a valuable book on how and why people make decisions. I really liked the book. There are a plethora of stories illustrating decision making processes in a variety of field. Dr. Klein does an excellent job of breaking down these stories and explaining what is really going on. I genuinely feel I have a better understanding of decision making after reading this book. So, why did I give it three stars? The book is too long. Every subsequent chapter builds on the previous chapter, but the val ...more
Mar 31, 2015 Way rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book that explores the cognitive processes and methodologies involved in "naturalistic decision making" made by experts. Essentially, this means time- and stress-pressured decisions made by people in high-intensity occupation like tank platoon commanders, pilots, firefighters, neonatal nurses, nuclear facility engineers, and more.

The book, which can occasionally be a little difficult to get through, has beautiful nuggets of information spread throughout that deal with the w
Robin Witt
Interesting, but not interesting enough to request a second time after my library renewals ran out. So it's been returned unfinished. But the time I spent reading it was time well spent.
David Bowles
Jan 18, 2013 David Bowles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent book. Don't get hung up on the title. Understand the value of experience and trusting your gut.
Dec 24, 2015 Raven rated it liked it
I appreciated this study of how we think and what methods we use to make decisions, and it's good to see it studied even if some of the conclusions here seemed super obvious. (I've also read a good bit in the field, though, so I may not have been the best target audience for this book. If it's your first encounter with analyzing how people make decisions under stress and/or time constraints, the conclusions probably seem way more mind-blowing.) I admit, I skipped every single flow chart in it... ...more
First half has good information and ideas on how to help improve training for decision making, but after chapter 7 it starts to loose steam.(view spoiler) ...more
Jun 15, 2008 Penny rated it liked it
Shelves: try-again-later
I'm about half-way through this, and I find it not only interesting but also encouraging, in a weird sort of way.

He talks about how the meticulous analytical decision-making process, where you line up all the options and compare them so you can choose the best one, is not really what people do. In fact, people use their experience-based expertise, intuition, and other methods to make decisions much more quickly, and they are usually better decisions than they would make with the analytical proce
Apr 29, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rachel by: Carl
Shelves: psychology
This was an interesting, though oddly named, investigation into the process of decision making. Klein spent years researching the process of making decisions, and discovered that the standard model (listing options, comparing them, choosing the most favorable) is wildly inaccurate, and rarely used. Rather, people tend to make decisions based on analogies and scenarios developed through experience.

This book has huge quantities of interesting information, presented in a slightly scattershot way (i
Jan 04, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Many studies of how we make decisions treat experience as interference, and seek to eliminate it from the tests. Gary Klein examines how people use experience in high-pressure decision making, such as Fire Fighters, Military Commanders, and ICU doctors. Many of these people say they don't make decisions at all, they look at a situation and simply know what to do. Of course there's something more complex going on here, but people are unable to describe it.

Klein has found good explanations, using
David Rothermel
May 25, 2012 David Rothermel rated it liked it
I read this due to the recommendation in Thinking Fast and Slow. Klien's work provides a nice counterbalance to Kahneman. This book attempts to unravel how experts make decisions - particularly under time constraints / pressure. The RL stories he uses as examples are informative and his hypothesis that experts don't use "standard problem solving" as modelled by the textbooks in which many alternate solutions are generated and weighed against each other. Klien posits another model in which approp ...more
Sep 11, 2014 Will rated it really liked it
This is a solid, well put together book that really goes into what makes good teams, how decisions get made, and does it by the hard work of following people around, interviewing them and drilling down on various questions. It's obvious that this is the man's life work.

The sidebars on firefighters is very good, and the contrast with the crisis managers is incredible.
Sources of Power has a lot of valuable ideas, but it is not a very good book. Compared to its content, it is rather long, and it often reads more like a research log.

This results in a very uneven text. There are many brilliant insights to the human decision-making process, but there is also a lot of content that is not very interesting or useful. Some of the findings are rather superficial, and Klein spends a lot of pages describing in detail how he and his colleagues implemented their research
David Hyder
Jan 06, 2016 David Hyder rated it it was amazing
Everything we thought we new about decision-making under pressure if false. There's no process, just a sense or understanding that something isn't right. It is largely pattern recognition. As such when things stop fitting the pattern it is time to reevaluate or you're in trouble.
Steven Peterson
Dec 12, 2008 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
This is an insightful book, exploring how we make decisions. Remember the old Ben Franklin approach? Two columns on a piece of paper: One column is headed reasons to decide yes and the other why we would not make the decision. Whichever side has the most entries determines our decision. Others argue that humans use a rational calculus to make decisions. What are the costs and benefits of any decision?

The reality, though, is much different. Klein's book talks about how we make decisions based on
Roger Prado
Apr 19, 2014 Roger Prado rated it really liked it
Elucida e expõe com profundidade mecanismos na tomada de decisões. Poderia ser mais conciso, pois há muitas redundâncias, e padece de certo academicismo, o que, em conjunto com as redundâncias, torna a leitura um tanto cansativa.
Dan Slimmon
I read this book as a counterpoint to Daniel Kahneman's phenomenal Thinking Fast & Slow. Kahneman is a member of the "heuristics and biases" school of decision theory. He uses laboratory results to show how the bounds of human rationality result in objectively poor decisions.

Klein, as a researcher in the "naturalistic decision making" school, takes the very different approach. He interviews experts in all sorts of fields and tries to understand how they make predictions and decisions so much
Rikki Prince
Apr 10, 2012 Rikki Prince rated it liked it
Interesting insight into naturalistic decision making, spread over 25 years of research. Provides a lot of perspectives on what is going on in our mind when making decisions. Also challenges a number of existing theories of how decisions are made. The results are a model that is a bit fuzzier, but seem to be more representative of what is actually happening.

Do note that this is most definitely a write up of academic research. It is a bit impenetrable at times, so unless you are a studying in thi
Feb 05, 2016 Nikky rated it it was amazing
Shelves: default
Sources of Power is the kind of work that should be required reading for anyone who has to deal with people on a daily basis. Since almost all of us deal with people making decisions daily, that means almost all of us should read this book.

Klein explores the various methods we use to make decisions when we have both expert and non-expert knowledge in a particular field. Along the way, he addresses group thinking processes, communicating intent effectively, and other cognitive findings while bril
Jeet Das
Apr 29, 2014 Jeet Das rated it it was amazing
A book that gives an insight how to rely on your decision and how they are better given the time and space you had. This book is not for seeking problem solving techniques but understanding how a decision is made - maybe also the power of such a decision.
Nov 27, 2011 Dan rated it liked it
Semi-scientific fieldwork to discover how people make important decisions under pressure. The answer? Good decision-makers have experience; they recognize the parallels between the current situation and previous one ("Recognition-Primed Decision Making" or the RPD model). When faced with a novel situation, they are good at imagining the consequences of a decision in great detail, simulating it to discover flaws. In a few cases, where the decision-maker is a novice, they lay out several options a ...more
Jan 20, 2012 Timo rated it it was amazing
Great book about decision making processes on professionals of different areas ranging from military setting to nurses working on maternity wards. Most enjoyable were the numerous different real life examples of good and bad decision making Klein dissected and explained why the decisions were made the way they were made.

I am always a bit suspicious when books highlight the use of intuition however Klein underlined that what he meant with intuition is the ability to detect subtle clues and other
Shicheng Huang
Apr 14, 2015 Shicheng Huang rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book to read with some very insightful information that could significantly changes my life.
Bryant Macfarlane
Jan 18, 2016 Bryant Macfarlane rated it really liked it
This was likely the best book on cognitive study I have read.
Sep 13, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it
This book explores a paradigm for naturalistic decision-making called "Recognition Primed Decisions" in which experts in high-pressure situations use the intuition and metaphors of their experience to generate mental simulations for a current experience. They monitor for anomalies and revise as indicated. Experimentally, Klein and his colleagues found this model more frequently resembles decision-making than any of the models that involve direct comparison between competing options. It is a fasc ...more
Apr 03, 2008 Cory rated it liked it
Recommended to Cory by: Jonathan
This book had really interesting information about expert decision making. In particular how intuitive experience trumps careful analysis time after time. The biggest takeaway for me applied to work and life was that "find a good solution that works and do it" is much better than "debate, study, analyze, and compare two good solutions to figure out which is best".

The cons are that this book is totally repetitive. I would have liked it to be about 1/4 the size it was with more concise and less r
Jan 01, 2015 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book that describes how decisions are made under pressure. It also offers insight into how to develop better decision makers. One of the best books I've ever read and applicable to any career or profession.
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