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Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  200 ratings  ·  26 reviews
An expert explains how the conventional wisdom about decision making can get us into trouble--and why experience can't be replaced by rules, procedures, or analytical methods.

In making decisions, when should we go with our gut and when should we try to analyze every option? When should we use our intuition and when should we rely on logic and statistics? Most of us would
Paperback, 337 pages
Published September 23rd 2011 by Bradford Book (first published September 4th 2009)
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Scott Ford
Wouldn't it be great if we could make decisions within the same vacuum that many advice gurus use to establish their theories! Unfortunately, mere mortals have to contend with ambiguity, contradiction and redundancy on a regular basis. Gary Klein places the whole process of decision making into context. A great book.
Christopher Widjaya
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
good book regarding human thinking on decisions. but too draggy at parts with countless rereferences to anecdotes, sort of beating around the bush for a good bit, but never fails to put the points down in the ground firmly. a good read, but a hundred pages less is possible and maybe more is less is really the best.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why isn't this as famous and well known as Thinking Fast and Slow? Or... Antifragile? To be honest he is not as quotable as Taleb. Neither is he as simple to read as Kahnemann. But he is every bit as relevant.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Streetlights and Shadows, Klein argues that the traditional claims for thinking and making decisions only apply in well-ordered situations (under "streetlights"). In situations that are ambiguous, complex and unpredictable (in the "shadows"), however, these processes are at best useless and at worst, work against us. He identifies what he considers to be the ten most worrying of the common pieces of advice given by researchers, organisational developers and management specialists on ...more
A great book on decision making in conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity, rooted in a naturalistic approach. While giving a good overview of the territory, Klein adds his unique voice and approach, explained in simple ways, and gives concrete advice while busting some myths of a certain rationalistic school of decision making. Recommended
Mr Abdi Ahmed Samater
Overall excellent book with loads of insights which can crossover into many areas you may wish to work on in your life. From heuristics, the types that exists, the benefits, to popular claims regarding decision making and why it may not be as accurate as it may seem. The topic on feedback was a game changer for me (as I coach football). The feedback I now give (which is rarely given unless needed), empowers my students to learn to recognize cues for themselves, interpret situations, ask ...more
We are in complex world, not a simplistic world that was until 30 years ago. Decision making as a person, or in a project, in organization, has not been evolved to adapt to today's complex situations. Most of us agree with the statement "successful decision makers rely on logic and statistics instead intuition", "we can reduce uncertainty by gathering more information", "the starting point for any project is to get a clear description of the goal", "our plans will succeed more often if we ...more
Mihai Cosareanu
I didn't learn anything new from the book. I've read many others before that contain somehow parts of the advice offered in the book. The book is all about myths of decision making when you try to make decisions in an unordered, complex, and surprising domain.

I don't know why I found it hard to stick to the book, maybe it's the writing ... I struggled to finish it, but I find that the content is quite good if you're new to "how people make decisions".
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have developed an interest in decision making and this book has provided me with more insight after having read Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman.
Klein adds some interesting thoughts that are handled differently by the Kahneman book and I will continue finding other relevant books on this topic as a result.
Jason Robert Bowers
This book was suggested by a friend. Not something I would normally pick up myself but I'm glad I did. I was a great read that had me thinking differently about decision making and the importance of expertise. Any one in a leadership role, or studying leadership, should give this book a read.
Richard C
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reminded me of Enrico Fermis strategy of not overly complicating a problem, and solving with the most elegent factors in the decision making process. Now if someone could just quickly tell me how to recognize them Id be in the pink! ...more
William "Spig"
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It is written in the Freak-a-Nomics style. Life and complex problems are not simple formulaic puzzles to figure out. The book shows the science behind living and leading beyond the complicated and in the complex.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly well structured. The books really takes off after first few chapters. Very interesting ideas. Probably will re-read it again later to refresh.
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
Klein's discussion of ten common claims relative to decision-making in organizations is an interesting take on a frequently-covered topic. The author goes to great lengths to indicate a state of 'partial disagreement' with the claims, noting that most work in well-ordered situations yet break down in complex and/or ambiguous environments. Rather than writing a handbook on decision-making, what Klein is really doing is lending support to the notion that humans and the sciences that study them ...more
Yadira  Denisse
I actually could not finish reading this book. I read 3/4 because my brain got tired of trying to interpret what it was saying. I think is a great read!!!! It basically explains everything you think you know and then tells you not to believe it and makes perfect sense but it's academically written. I was trying to read it for pleasure and my brain couldn't handle it!

Nevertheless, I should also mention that as a Law Enforcement Officer most of his theories about why I should deny the
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi
Very decent book though the author gets overly verbose at points. In the chapter on risk management for example it was very obvious that he was talking about so-called "Knightian" uncertainty and I wished he would just come out and say it. I would say Klein certainly mounted an illuminating challenge to conventional decision and management theory anyway. I'm loath to quote John Lennon but "life is what happens when you're making other plans". That being said, I still am not fully convinced of ...more
Ben Pratt
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding insight into problem solving under complex conditions

Walks through the most common assumptions about what should be done to solve problems and drive continuous improvement, showing how these generally hold up well under simpler, more straightforward conditions (solving puzzles) - and it so well in more complex situations (solving mysteries). Very pragmatic and useful knowledge managers and leaders in all walks of life...
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I refer to this book all of the time in training colleagues in incident response. Especially his study of pilots, when hijacked, are not able to consult their manual. Instead, they must rely on training, instincts, and adaptive decision-making to aid in mitigating serious consequences is something everyone can appreciate and practice.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread, trading
Every teacher should read this book. Great examples of feedback and understand how people learn and challenges simplistic concepts of learning and teaching. But great book for people that love understanding decisions and pitfalls.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some thought provoking content, but could easily have been condensed to about a dozen pages.
Apr 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book for those who are administrators in education. Teaching is a complex task in a complex system.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
awesome book. mindblowing :)
Johnny Bennett
This was way better than Thinking Fast and Slow. Much more directly applicable to life. Better writing too.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive book with many examples to illustrate how we make decisions. I like the exercises (as they made me think) and the summary at the end.
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: class-y-reading
This is a GREAT book on decision making and sensemaking. It is written for a general audience, using a wide variety of examples to make his point. I highly recommend it!
Feb 03, 2016 added it
Good look at the fallacies of decision-making "best practices"
Laura Quinn
rated it liked it
Aug 27, 2014
Paul Vicars
rated it it was amazing
Nov 13, 2017
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Feb 05, 2015
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Sep 15, 2011
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Gary Klein, Ph.D., is known for the cognitive models, such as the Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) model, the Data/Frame model of sensemaking, the Management By Discovery model of planning in complex settings, and the Triple Path model of insight, the methods he developed, including techniques for Cognitive Task Analysis, the PreMortem method of risk assessment, and the ShadowBox training ...more

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“Complex and unpredictable
The claims work best in well-ordered situations. Well-ordered domains are structured and stable. We know what causes the effects we want to achieve. We can think systematically about well-ordered domains because we know how they work. We can calculate what decisions to make and how to predict the future.
However, we don't usually live in that world of clarity. Much of the time we find ourselves in a different world-a world of shadows where we don't know all the causes or how they work, we can't pin down all the knowledge we need in order to be successful, and we aren't sure we understand the goals.”
More quotes…