Gary Klein ad Sidney W. A. Dekker are two very fascinating persons.  Gary Klein (Klein Associates, runs a research group that specializes in decision-centered solutions.  That is, his company researches human factors as causal constituents for decisions.  His approach to cognitive science is distinctively anthropological.

Klein’s book, “Sources of Power:  How People Make Decisions” is based on an approach called recognition-primed decision (RPD) making.  From this approach the thesis is generated that it is cumulative experience that allows experts to perform similarity analysis without prolonged deliberation.  His book is filled with interviews with persons from different situations and his own personal experience with RPD.

Recognition Primed Decision Making is based upon expanding the experience base of persons.  Inherent in this approach is the understanding that there are times when experience will mislead us, but that is o.k. because mistakes will add to the accumulated experience base.

Klein knows that intuition is an inherent component of the art of RPD.  When one adds intuitive awareness to accumulated experience the result is a way of seeing or knowing that allows experts to choose a particular direction without an artificial component or meta-diagnostic assessment if you will.

In some ancient traditions this ability was called wisdom, and Klein and some others seem to have rediscovered its efficacy for 21st century business models.

Sydney W. A. Dekker is also an individual who has created a business that deals with ‘failure assessment’ in businesses that come through human capital.  He notes with restrained candor that ‘failure’ as such is intrinsic to business.  His work is to demonstrate why failure occurs and how businesses must learn to anticipate it in a manner that is not counter-productive, such as the implementation of more stringent rule and regulations that while they may seem to address a particular failure scenario may in the long term add to systemic dysfunction and create other opportunities for ‘failure.’

His answer is to recognize the dual mandate of control and openness to facilitate optimum business advantaging.  For instance, in the preface to his book, “Ten Questions About Human Error: A New View of Human Factors and System Safety” Dekker wrote the following about pilots in World War II airplane cockpits “Pilots would…mix up throttle, and propeller controls because their locations kept changing across different cockpits.  Such errors were not surprising,they were  random degradation of human performance.  They were actions and assessments that made sense once researchers understood features of the world in which people worked, once they had analysed the situation surrounding the operator. Human errors are systematically connected to features of people’s tools and tasks.  It may be difficult to predict when or how often errors will occur (though human reliability techniques have certainly tried).

Dekker goes on to note that contemporary human factor studies are based upon a “psychology of pragmatics” that adopted “the Cartesian-Newtonian view of science and scientific method…”A heritage of this can still be seen in human factors, the nomothetic rather than ideographic inclination of its research, and a strong faith in the realism of observed fact.”

Stay tuned for more about Dekker’s work in another blog installment.