Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein debate the power and perils of intuition for senior executives. For two scholars representing opposing schools of thought, Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein find a surprising amount of common ground. Kahneman, a psychologist, won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002 for prospect theory, which helps explain the sometimes counterintuitive choices people make under uncertainty. Klein, a senior scientist at MacroCognition, has focused on the power of intuition to support good decision making in high-pressure environments, such as firefighting and intensive-care units. In a September 2009 American Psychology article titled “Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree,” Kahneman and Klein debated the circumstances in which intuition would yield good decision making. In this interview with Olivier Sibony, a director in McKinsey’s Brussels office, and Dan Lovallo, a professor at the University of Sydney and an adviser to McKinsey, Kahneman and Klein explore the power and perils of intuition for senior executives.
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By guiding the design of customer interactions, the principles of behavioral science offer a simple, low-cost route to improved customer satisfaction. Service operations seem a natural setting for the ideas of behavioral science. Every year, companies have thousands, even millions, of interactions with human beings—also known as customers. Their perceptions of an interaction, behavioral scientists tell us, are influenced powerfully by considerations such as its sequence of painful and pleasurable experiences. Companies care deeply about the quality of those interactions and invest heavily in effective Web sites and in responsive, simplified call centers. Yet the application of behavioral science to service operations seems spotty at best. Its principles have been implemented by relatively few companies, such as the telecommunications business, which found that giving customers some control over their service interactions by allowing them to schedule field service visits at specific times could make them more satisfied, even when they had to wait a week or longer. Many more companies ignore what makes people tick. Banks, for example, often disturb the customer experience by altering the menus on ATMs or the interactive-voice-response (IVR) systems in call centers. They fail to recognize the psychological discomfort customers experience when faced with unexpected changes.