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Decisive by Chris and Dan Heath

I have read “Made to Stick” and “Switch” and loved them both, so when I saw a friend had read this one, I put it on my list to read.  These are all mostly quotes form the book.  You will won’t understand most of it unless you read the book. But I wanted to write the blog post so I can remember what I need to about decision making.  The book starts by discussing the Four Villains of Decision Making:

  1. Narrow framing – the tendency to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms. you encounter a choice but this makes you miss options
  2. Confirmation Bias – a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that bolsters that belief. You only gather self-serving information
  3. Short term emotion – do not look at logic, emotions tempt you to bad choices.
  4. Overconfidence – people think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold

So What is a process that will help us overcome these villains and make better choices? WRAP

  1. Widen Your Options
  2. Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding
  4. Prepare to be Wrong

Avoid a Narrow Frame – Think about “What are we giving up by making this choice? What else could we do with the same time and money?  What else could you do.  Multitracking is when you are considering more than one option simultaneously.  Multitracking also keeps egos in check by not having all your eggs in one basket.   Beware of sham options.  Toggle between prevention and promotion mindsets. Prevention focus avoids negative outcomes and Promotion focus pursues positive outcomes.  Push for this AND that instead of this OR that.  When you need more options but feel stuck, look for someone who’s solved your problem.  Look outside at competitive analysis, benchmarking, best practices.  Look inside. Find your bright spots.  Encode your greatest hits in a decision playlist. Why generate your own ideas when you can sample the world’s buffet of options?

Consider the opposite – What would have to be true for this to work? What if your least favorite option were actually the best one? What data might convince us of that? What are other possibilities that may be more positive than what you are thinking?  Make it easier for people to disagree with us. We can ask questions that are more likely to surface contrary information. We can check ourselves by considering the opposite.  We can test our assumptions with a deliberate mistake.

Zoom Out, Zoom In. The inside view is our evaluation of our specific situation. The outside view is how things generally unfold in situations like ours. The outside view is more accurate, but most people gravitate toward the inside view.  If you can’t find the “base rates” for your decision, ask an expert. A Close up can add texture that’s missing from the outside view.

Ooch is to construct small experiments to test one’s hypothesis. Ooching is a diagnostic way to reality test your perceptions.   For more info read Peter Sim’s book “Little Bets”.  By making decisions through experimentation, the best idea can prove itself. Ooching is best for situations where we genuinely need more information.  It is not intended to enable emotional tiptoeing.  To Ooch is to ask, “Why predict something we can test?  Why guess when we can know?  We’ve got to be diligent about the way we collect information, asking disconfirming questions and considering the opposite.  We’ve got to look for the right kinds of information; zooming out to find base rates, which summarize the experiences of others, and zooming in to get  a more nuanced impression of reality.  Ooching then let’s you take your options for a spin before we commit.  Ooching running small experiments to test our theories.  Rather than jumping in headfirst, we dip a toe in.  Ooching is particularly useful because we’re terrible at predicting the future.  Entrepreneurs ooch naturally. Rather than create business forecasts, they go out and try things.  Ooching is counterproductive for situations that require commitment.  Common hiring error: we try to predict success via interview.  We should ooch instead. Why would we ever predict when we ca know?

Overcome short-term emotions.  Use 10/10/10 – what will you think in 10 minutes/months/years? Simply ensures that short term emotion isn’t the only voice at the table. It also provides distance by forcing us to consider future emotions as much as present ones. People respond to change in two ways: Ack, that feels unfamiliar OR Ack, we’re going to lose what we have today. What you get is a powerful bias for the way things work today.  With emotions we think differently if we can distance ourselves.  When we think of our friends, we see the forest. When we think of ourselves, we get stuck in the trees.  Fleeting emotions tempt us to make decisions that are bad in the long term.  To overcome distracting short-term emotions, we need to attain some distance. Our decisions are often altered by two subtle shortterm emotions: 1) mere exposure- we like what’s familiar to us and 2) loss aversion – losses are more painful than gains are pleasant.  We can obtain distance by looking at our situation from an observer’s perspective.  Perhaps the most powerful question is “What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?”

Honor your core priorities. Quieting shot-term emotion won’t always make a decision easy. Agonizing decisions are often a sign of a conflict among your core priorities. By identifying and enshrining your core priorities, you make it easier to resolve present and future dilemmas. Establishing your core priorities is unfortunately, not the same as binding yourself to them.  To carve out space to pursue our core priorities we must go on the offense, against lesser priorities.

Bookend the future.  “Our precious project has flopped. Why?” Or we add buffer time to a schedule because we’ve learned to distrust our own optimism.  The future is not a point a single scenario that we must predict.  It is a range. WE should bookend the future, considering the range of outcomes from very good to very bad.  To prepare for the lower bookend, we need a premortem,  ask “Our decision has failed utterly.  Why?”  To be ready for the upper bookend, we need a preparade. “we are heroes. “will we be ready for success?” To prepare for what can’t be forseen, we can use a safety factor. Anticipating problems helps us cope with them. By bookending- anticipating and preparing for both adversity and success – we stack the deck in favor of our decisions.

Set a tripwire.  In life, we naturally slip into autopilot, leaving past decisions unquestioned.  A tripwire can snap us awake and make us realize we have a choice.  Tripwires can be especially useful when change is gradual. For people stuck on autopilot, consider deadlines or partitions. We tend to escalate our investment in poor decisions, partitions can help rein that in.  Trip wires can actually create a safe space for risk taking. They cap risk and quiet your ind until the trigger is hit.  Many powerful tripwires are triggered by patterns rather than dates/metric/budgets. Tripwires can provide a precious realization. We have a choice to make.

Trusting the process. When you can articulate someone’s point of view better than they can, it’s de factco proof that you are really listening. Decisions made by a group have an additional burden; they must be seen as fair.  Bargaining – horse-trading until all sides can live with the choice – makes for good decisions that will be seen as fair. Procedural justice is critical in determining how people feel about a decision.  We should make sure people are able to perceive that the process is just.  A trustworthy process can help us navigate even the thorniest decisions.  Process isn’t glamorous. But the confidence it can provide is precious.  Trusting a process can permit us to take bigger risks, make bolder choices.

Please decide to read this book!

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  1. Damon
    June 8, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Wow nice. There are some very good points in there and things that I recognized in myself as I was reading that I’d like to address. Thanks for this post, Toni!

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