Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Summary

  1. Chip and Dan Heath do a great job discussing the common decision-making fallacies and how we can mitigate them

Key Takeaways

  1. The 4 Villains of Decision-Making
    1. Narrow framing – avoid a narrow framing by asking yourself broad questions, giving yourself as many options as possible so that you have a better understanding of what the options even are, mitigating your mental biases
    2. Confirmation Bias – the confirmation bias can’t be done away with but it can be mitigated. Widen your options, prepare to be wrong, reality-test your assumptions, and gain distance before you make a decision
    3. Short-term emotion – we get caught up in the moment and let our emotions rather than our rationality take over. Andy Grove’s “what would our successors do?” can help us gain perspective and clarity
    4. Overconfidence – we all think we’re above average and this leads us to make overly risky decisions. Having a devil;s advocate or at least honoring the importance of criticism is vital to stemming overconfidence
  2. The WRAP Process can help your decision-making, mitigating the 4 villains discussed above – process is far more important than analysis. If we can develop a good and consistent process, our decision-making can’t help but improve
    1. Widen your options
      1. Avoid a narrow frame
        1. People often only see what is in front of them (WYSIATI) and this can also be thought of as a spotlight effect – we only see that which we are currently focused on, missing what is not there. Sometimes the hardest part of decision-making is knowing that there is a decision to make
        2. Do your best taking an outside view to get the base rates of the situations from the past sometimes the reveille available and sometimes you should consult experts to get their opinions
      2. Multitrack
        1. Some of the best decisions come through multi-tracking – working with several different options and details in parallel, uncovering ideas that otherwise might have been out of your purview. Unless we have iterated a similar problem dozens of times, we probably are too inexperienced and doubling down on a single option is likely sub-optimal. With multi-tracking, you spread out your gambles early on, then doubling down on what appear to be the most promising option(s). 
      3. Find someone who’s solved your problem
        1. You can look for options both internally and externally.
        2. It is also helpful to look at your bright spots where things are going well and trying to deconstruct what allowed you to do those things well
    2. Reality-test your assumptions
      1. Consider the opposite
        1. Asking yourself and your team what would have to be true for this situation to be the right decision is an important question to ask. It gets you analyzing rather than dismissing and keeps your eyes open to other possibilities and options
        2. Using perspective hindsight and asking yourself what could’ve happened to lead us to this point seems to be easier for us to think about that simply being asked to predict the future
      2. Zoom out, zoom in
        1. The 10-10-10 framework can be useful when you have a big decision. Ask yourself how you will feel about that choice in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now. This helps you gain perspective, limit short-term emotion, and focus on the truly important things.
        2. Another effective question is to ask yourself, “what you would tell your best friend in this situation?” It is amazing how much clarity the simple shift in perspective can give you
      3. Ooch
        1. Run small experiments to test your theories – rather than going all-in, first dipping your toe
        2. Great in areas where we are terrible at predicting the future but bad where we require commitment
    3. Attain distance before deciding
      1. Overcome short-term emotion
        1. Take some time, ask mentors for advice, create lists, anything to give you distance and perspective
      2. Honor your core priorities
        1. Know what your values are and try to make your decisions align with these values as often and as much as possible
    4. Prepare to be wrong
      1. Bookend the future
        1. The big difference between corporate executives and entrepreneurs is that the corporate want to try to predict and control the future whereas entrepreneurs go and actively test it. If you can influence it you don’t need to predict and control it.  Why guess when you can know?
        2. Using bookends for your decisions can be a helpful tool to gauge your confidence, estimate a lower and upper bound on your predictions, and see where the current situation falls. If it is too close to the lower boundary, reconsider that option
      2. Set a tripwire
        1. You must design tripwires into your day and decision-making so that you’re not constantly an auto pilot. These tripwires get you to stop, think, and realize that there are options that you may not be considering  
        2. Partitioning is a great example of a tripwire. For example, when cookies are individually wrapped, people eat far less than when they’re simply in a box. This individual wrapping gets people to be more thoughtful. This type of tripwire is mostly used and beneficial for self-control type situations
  3. Other
    1. FDR was worried about getting influenced data so he wanted to go directly to the source and get unbiased opinion. He often showed up unannounced at a project and did whatever he could to get raw data points. His wife also greatly helped him in these efforts
    2. It is often a good practice to have your senior executives spending time fielding customer service complaints. This helps them keep a pulse on the company in order to more innately and intimately understand the customer’s problems and concerns
    3. Using an FMEA mindset – what do you think about the probabilities and severity of each option? Choose the option which has the highest expected value 
    4. You should also think about a pre-parade – what happens if your decision is perfect? What would you need in order to keep up with demand

What I got out of it

  1. Some simple frameworks and reminders for how to improve your decision-making – at the core is avoiding overconfidence, broadening your options, not letting emotions take the best of you, and gaining distance in order to gain perspective.