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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work Hardcover – March 26, 2013
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Q&A with Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Q. People often feel overwhelmed by “Decisions, decisions, decisions …” What makes us so indecisive?
A. If you’re feeling indecisive, chances are you don’t have the right options yet. In the book we describe four key “villains” of decision-making—common traps and biases that psychologists have identified. One of them is called “narrow framing,” meaning that we tend to get stuck in one way of thinking about a dilemma, or we ignore alternatives that are available to us. With a little effort, we can break out of a narrow frame and widen our options. For instance, one expert we interviewed had a great quote: “Any time in life you’re tempted to think, ‘Should I do this OR that?,’ instead, ask yourself, ‘Is there a way I can do this AND that?’ It’s surprisingly frequent that it’s feasible to do both things.”
Q. You show that the same decision process can be applied to many domains—health decisions, career decisions, business decisions—but doesn’t a decision “process” take way too much time?
A. Not necessarily. In this book, we’re not interested in complex decision models or elaborate decision trees. Often the best advice is the simplest, for instance, the suggestion to “sleep on it.” That’s great advice—it helps to quiet short-term emotion that can disrupt our choices. But it still takes 8 hours, and it doesn’t always resolve our dilemmas. Many other decision aids require only a simple shift in attention. Doctors leaning toward a diagnosis are taught to check themselves by asking, “What else could this be?” And colleagues making a difficult group decision can ask, “What would convince us, six months down the road, to change our minds about this?”
Q. Why did you call the book Decisive?
A. Being decisive isn’t about making the perfect decision every time. That isn’t possible. Rather, it’s about being confident that we’ve considered the right things, that we’ve used a smart process. The two of us have met a lot of people who tell us they agonize endlessly about their decisions. They get stuck in a cycle where they just keep spinning their wheels. To escape that cycle, we often need a shift in perspective. We describe a simple technique used by former Intel chief Andy Grove to resolve one of the toughest business decisions he ever faced, one that he and his colleagues had debated for over a year. And what was this profound technique? Nothing fancier than a single, provocative question! In the book we also highlight a second question, inspired by Grove’s technique, that can often resolve personal decisions quickly and easily.
Q. So how do I help my teenage son not to make a bad choice?
A. Unfortunately, no one has solved that problem. But we offer some simple tools that help people give better decision advice. (Often it’s easier to spot the flaws in other people’s thinking than in our own.) As an example, the phrase “whether or not” is often a warning flag that someone is trapped in a narrow frame. So if your son is debating “whether or not to go to the party tonight,” that’s your cue to widen the options he’s considering. (Horror movie? School basketball game? A head-start on trigonometry coursework?) For important decisions, even a little improvement can pay big dividends.
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Top Customer Reviews
* You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options.
* You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information.
* You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one.
* Then you live with it. But you'll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold
They spend the remainder of the book detailing a process to make better decisions - the WRAP process:
* Widen your options
* Reality Test Your Assumptions
* Attain Some Distance
* Prepare to Be Wrong
Each part of the process has several powerful ideas that are worth chewing on and implementing in the context of one's life. I have chosen a few of the ideas to give you a flavor of what is in store:
For widening your options, it is important to avoid a narrow frame. In order to make sure you challenge yourself to do this, they propose an idea called the Vanishing Options Test - what would you do if the current alternatives disappeared? Here is a key quote: "When people imagine that they cannot have an option, they are forced to move their mental spotlight elsewhere - really move it - often for the first time in a long while."
For Reality testing your assumptions.Read more ›
We all make decisions and the top of making better decisions should have been a slam-dunk. While Decisive does deliver, particularly in the first few chapters, overall the messages in this book get lost. The book is too long, heavy and complex to be helpful, particularly covering a subject already treated by others.
The core messages of the book are sound and helpful. The book covers recognizes the challenges we face in making decisions:
> Forcing an either/or decision when its not needed
> Confirmation bias, when we seek and see only the data that supports our views
> Removing emotion from the decision making process
> Overconfidence in decision making that limits our ability to consider alternative
The answers to these challenges are a pop acronym WRAP that describes their four-step process to making better decisions.
> Widen your options
> Reality test your assumptions
> Attain distance before deciding
> Prepare to be wrong
These are commonsense and helpful ideas. They are the basis for an easy to understand, actionable set of tools, you are right. This is a case where the structure and prose gets in the way as the book uses 11 chapters to cover each letter of WRAP.Read more ›
Readability: No one writes non-fiction business books like these guys. In parts, Decisive is hard to put down. If you've read Made to Stick, you'll see the authors practicing what they preach by applying their SUCCES principles to the format of this book (if you haven't read it, then get it).
Gives You Language: Three of us in our department at work got a copy of Decisive and it comes up in conversation everyday. The Heath brothers have given us language like: "ooching", "setting tripwires", "widen our options,"narrow framing, and "What would have to be true for this to be the best option?" This is kind of language has the power to shape the culture of an organization.
Researched: I love the footnotes! Decisive is full of credible examples, and you can tell that the authors and their research team put in hundreds of hours exploring the topic of decision making. The result is a litany of real-life examples and the results of research studies put into layman's terms.
As "Decisive" can help us make decisions more wisely and thoughtfully, it proves its worth over and over again.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Superlative book. I love the book so much that I have created a workshop that I have given to many groups of executives and they all find it invaluable. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Michael O'Brien
Another amazing book by Heath and Heath - a careful and well thought through review of the decision making process and where we can get hung up.Published 5 days ago by Aaron Warner
The reason why you need to read a book on how to make better decisions is because, based on cognitive research, human beings are wired to make less-than-wise decisions. Read morePublished 28 days ago by C.H.E. Sadaphal
Great book on decision making. Very practical and well researched. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to make better decisions.Published 1 month ago
Very useful and informative book. I have just bought a second one for a friend. I think all the Heath brother's books are great.Published 2 months ago by E. HARRIS
Understanding the process of decision making, how to make great choices depends in much more than what its evident by our knowledge and experience (gut feeling), providing tools... Read morePublished 2 months ago by CoachEver
Fantastic book! Wish I had read this years ago. I wouldn't have made some of the bad decisions I've made!Published 2 months ago by Linda
The Heaths deliver again. This is an easy read about how to make better decisions.Published 2 months ago by MLeland