Sources of Power
How People Make Decisions
As seen in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: the modern classic on how people make decisions by drawing on prior experience and using a combination of intuition and analysis.
We have all 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. In this modern classic, Gary A. Klein proposes a naturalistic approach to decision making, which views people as gaining experience that then enables them to use a combination of intuition and analysis to make decisions. To illustrate this approach, Klein tells stories of people—from pilots to chess masters—acting under such real-life constraints as time pressure, high stakes, personal responsibility, and shifting conditions.
Since its publication, Sources of Power has been enormously influential. The book has sold more than 50,000 copies, has been translated into six languages, has been cited in professional journals that range from Journal of Marketing Research to Journal of Nursing, and is mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink. Author Gary Klein has collaborated with Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and served on a team that redesigned the White House Situation Room to support more effective decision making. The model of decision-making Klein proposes in the book has been adopted in many fields, including law enforcement training and petrochemical plant operation.
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
Sources of Power is without a doubt one of the finest works on decision making. A must for anyone responsible for training command and control personnel.
Hugh E. Wood, Program Chair, Emergency Incident Policy and Analysis, National Fire Academy
Underscoring his points by citing a wide variety of fascinating incidents uncovered during his research, Gary Klein develops an elaborate and plausible model of the decision making of experienced experts. In the process, he makes a convincing case for the study of decision making in naturalistic settings. This study demonstrates the power of recognition-primed action and provides a convincing critique of the real-world validity of the normative decision making produced in laboratory settings.
Hubert L. Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley and Stuart E. Dreyfus, Professor of Engineering Science, Emeritus, University of California
Demonstrates the necessity of looking beyond economic and statistical models of decision making for an understanding of real-life decisions, particularly job-related decisions and decisions made in emergencies. The examples are excellent, deriving as they do from the authors extensive research with firefighters and the military.
Lee Roy Beach, Ph.D., McClelland Professor of Management and Policy and Professor of Psychology, College of Business and Public Administration, University of Arizona
After reading Sources of Power by Gary Klein I have a much better understanding of why and how experienced fire fighters make critical life and death decisions on the fire ground. I also have a better understanding of why new officers may have some problems with decision making. With 26 years as a Los Angeles County Fire Fighter, I have held every rank in the Operations Bureau and have commanded many types of incidents including the 1992 civil disturbance, 1993 firestorms, and the 1994 earthquake. This book has given me new insight on what level of performance I should expect from new company officers and how to improve their performance.
Larry C. Miller, Operations Chief Deputy, Los Angeles County Fire Department