An Easy Decision: a book review.

I may not have decided to read this book, but the publisher sent me an uncorrected proof of Decisive and asked me to read it and review it if I liked it. I did read it, though I read everything else on my nightstand first and was slow to pick it up. The concept didn’t excite me, but when I finally read the book I found it really helpful. This is everything you want in a business/self help book. Chip and Dan Heath are humorous, well-researched and have plenty of examples (mostly from the business world).

The Heath brothers are the authors of Switch and Made to Stick. Chip is a professor at the  Graduate School of Business at Stanford, Dan is senior fellow at Duke’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). In Decisive they put forward some principles which will help us make better personal and business decisions. Too many people ‘trust their gut’ when making decisions, but that is not reliable. Others are more rational in decision-making, making lists of pros and cons; however such lists are still vulnerable to confirmation-bias. We skew our results toward the desired outcome (even if we are unaware of it). The Heaths help us get past our own subjective biases/  The acronym WRAP summarizes their suggestions and provides the organization for this book: Widen Your Options, Reality-Test Your Assumptions, Attain Distance Before Deciding, Prepare to be Wrong.

The Heaths help us Widen Our Options by avoiding narrow-frame decision making. Often when we make decisions we frame it as an either/or or as a choice of ‘one.’ The Heaths get us to think about whether or not we could really do both/and, consider the costs to the outcome of our decision, multitrack decisions (allow multiple people/firms to work towards a solution and synthesize the best parts of eac)h, and to look for people/organizations which faced analogous problems and learn their solutions.

By Reality-Testing Assumptions the Heaths help us bypass our confirmation bias. Too often we seek out advice which re-enforces our own point of view. Chip and Dan suggest  giving due consideration to opposing opinions. They also want us to “Zoom out” and consider the situation from the “outside” and “Zoom in” and give the details a closer look. They also suggest that we don’t jump face first into the unknown. We should conduct a small test and evaluate the results before we leap.

Attaining Distance is all about not being caught up in the moment. The Heaths warn against short-term emotions and how they impact decision making. We tend to like what we’ve been exposed to and have an aversion to loss.  This biases us toward the status quo. When we look at our situation from an observer’s perspective we get beyond the emotional impact of our situation and can make a more reasoned decision. Likewise, we are not hoodwinked by too-good-to-be-true promises when we stick to our principles and honor our core priorities.

Preparing to Be Wrong,  involves us thinking through our decisions and developing contingency plans in the case of failure. It also means managing risks. Decisions that result in too much of a gamble should be avoided, but “trip-wires” can alert us to when we’ve gone to far, and where we should redirect.

I found these insights helpful and this book made me want to read the Heath’s other books. The book was a quick read and there were lots of business examples. I give this book ★★★★☆

Thank you to Crown Business for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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