I am an avid reader, and from time to time will be adding thoughts from recent books I have read. I just finished The Power of Intuition by Gary Klein for the second time (most books I enjoy I read multiple times as the information always strikes me differently), and it certainly provides an interesting perspective on intuition. Klein attempts to take the oftentimes mystical properties associated with intuition and provide scientific evidence that intuition is real and can be developed. Of course, the necessary first step is to come up with a definition. Klein defines intuition as the way we translate experience into action. This definition identifies the key element in training and reliably using intuition: experience.
When I read The Power of Intuition previously, I had only a rudimentary awareness and shallow understanding of Ericsson’s research on expertise. I experienced the book very differently this time having a fairly in depth understanding of Ericsson’s work, and his influence on Klein’s book was particularly evident in regard to experience. Ericsson is famous for developing the idea of 10 years and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to develop expertise, and this is the same idea behind the experience necessary to develop and trust your intuition.
Klein provides evidence for experts’ abilities to make instantaneous decisions based on their having developed mental models of various scenarios. The mental models allow experts to recognize patterns that are used to make decisions based on their previous knowledge of the pattern and take action. We all do this process all the time; unfortunately, unless we have taken the time to develop accurate mental models we are often wrong. This is why many of us (justifiably) are a bit wary of intuition.
So, Klein’s real insight is helping us to identify times when we should trust our intuition (when we have experience and training in a particular area) and when we should not (areas where we have minimal experience). Similar to Ericsson’s work, the way to develop intuition is to engage in deliberate practice and build better mental models. This process can be sped up with coaching and mentoring from experts, and this is reassuring and helpful as well.