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Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions Paperback – March 5, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business (March 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767908864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767908863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Have you ever hired someone only to regret your decision two months later? Or looked at your financial portfolio and wondered why you bought the stocks you did? In Smart Choices, authors John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa take the guesswork out of the decision-making process and offer a systematic approach to making the right choice. Most of us have problems making decisions, because we've never learned how. The authors write:
Despite the importance of decision making to our lives, few of us ever receive any training in it. So we are left to learn from experience. But experience is a costly, inefficient teacher that teaches us bad habits along with good ones. Because decision situations vary so markedly, the experience of making one important decision often seems of little use when facing the next.
Smart Choices outlines eight elements involved in making the right decision, from identifying exactly what the decision is and specifying your objectives to considering risk tolerance and looking at how what you decide on today influences what you may decide in the future. The book is full of real-life situations and scenarios that effectively illustrate each element of a good decision. If you think the topic of making the right choice is mundane or a simple matter of common sense, then think again. Smart Choices will relieve you of the regret that so many of us carry because we didn't know how to "think it through." --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1966, the Lovin' Spoonful had a #2 hit with "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?" Two years later, Raiffa answered that question for a generation of academics with his book Decision Analysis, whose argumentAthat decision-making skills can be learned and applied as a discipline of their ownAmade Raiffa deeply influential in management and social science. Raiffa (a former professor at Harvard Business School), his longtime associate Hammond (a professor of management and engineering at the University of Southern California) and Ralph Keeney (The Art and Science of Negotiation) here explain decision-analysis techniques and stratagems for the benefit of nonspecialists. They provide substantial, straightforward explanations of concepts (risk tolerance, sunk costs, desirability curves) that sound arcane but may help readers to buy the right car, choose a mutual fund, decide on a school, or plan a vacation. Unfortunately, the lingo of self-help often substitutes for the jargon of management consulting, as when Raiffa's famous five decision steps become the trendy acronym PrOACT. And the example problems can seem clich?d, two-dimensional or implausible, even when based on fact. Nevertheless, recommendations like "Remember that the value of an incremental change depends on what you start with" and "Make sure your subordinates reflect your organization's risk tolerance in their decisions" are, at the least, good reminders that the logic of decision making is often counterintuitive; at best, they are an important, useful set of insights.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Having read a few books on decision making, I believe this is the best one.
John Taiman
This book makes the decision making process very clear, and for the most part it's easy to follow.
S. White
I bought this book for graduate school but recommend it for anyone in management in business.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 77 people found the following review helpful By on February 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I had the pleasure of reading this book last year as assigned material in a graduate business course taught by Ralph Keeney. My degree is in information systems management and, frankly, I took Managerial Decision Analysis only because I needed 3 elective credits to graduate. In retrospect, however, the course was among the most beneficial to me and Smart Choices was certainly the most relevant book I read in graduate school. I say it was the most relevant because it demonstrates how to define problems and make decisions not simply as a business leader, but as an individual. The PROACT approach is a valuable tool for making formal decisions like "Which career path should I choose?" or "Which software package should I recommend to my client?" But the mentality that the approach engenders is pervasive. You will find yourself unwittingly applying elements of it to questions like "How should I spend time with my kids this weekend?" or "What is the best Valentine's Day gift for my wife?" The greatest benefit to me has been the piece of mind that comes with knowing that I don't just make better decisions -- I am now a better decision maker.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have read many books on decision analysis - however, the 3 authors managed to condense the most relevant points in one book, without academic speak. The famous Kahnmann & Tversky's Heuristics and Biases are nicely summarised in the final chapter. The case studies are easy to relate to. Definitely a professional book written for the layman. No need for a PhD to understand this!
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. The title may make this appear to be one of the too-numerous mass-market books which claim to offer advice on business and personal decision-making but actually offer lots of specific admonitions which are based on values which the reader may not share (example: anything by Steven Covey). This book, however, doesn't try to sell you any of the the authors' values; instead it teaches you an effective process that you can use to analyze any decision-making situation and make the choices which are most effective for achieving your objectives, whatever they may be. The book treats the subject in the same systematic way that it might be treated in an academic decision theory text, only it is written in plain language which can be read quickly and easily comprehended by the general reader. It finishes with a summary outline (they call it a "roadmap") which is a useful quick reference.
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52 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a corporate strategy consultant and an author of business books and articles. As a young man, I was taught all of the techniques described in this book in their most complex form. I loved the ideas, and have used them with great success for the last 30 years. Professor Raiffa is someone I admire greatly, as a result. I was delighted to find that this book addresses these complex tools in their simplest possible form, and applies the lessons to everyday living (especially the most important decisions that most people have to make). I immediately bought copies for everyone in my family as a way to help coach them in how to have more effective lives. You should do the same. I also suggest that you use the book as a model the next time that an important decision comes up that your whole family should participate in. This will not only help you develop better choices, but it will greatly improve the communications in your family about the decision. I strongly hope that the authors will write a similarly simple version for business people. I know a few hundred people to whom I would like to give such a book.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Honcho on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
The authors of the book "Smart Choices" (Hammond, Keeney and Raiffa) look at decision making as a disciplined informational affair. If you gather information according to their template you will make better decisions about some things. But they give only passing mention to the fact that decision-making is largely a psychological affair. Information handling (the topic of the decision) is opposed by psychological (emotional) determinants of decision-making. In the gap between these two factors, most people are driven more by emotions than by "rational factors" about information.

The motivation in decision-making is about what people want. The choices made are the expressions of motives - and motives are, by definition, psychological machinery. Psychological machinery is emotional. Period. If you consider the logic of TV's CSI show or Lieutenant Columbo, for example, any behavior depends on three things: motive, means and opportunity. The authors of this book have concentrated on the means for making a good decision. Opportunity to make a decision is taken for granted. But they have deleted the systematic emotional bias that disables so many motives of so many people so much of the time.

The downside of this excellent book is that the authors use the outline of their book in a way similar to the way pilots use a preflight checklist - to insure they will operate the machinery of their aircraft properly. Few human and interpersonal situations respond to "checklist logic". People are not normally as well organized as a well-maintained aircraft. People reach closure on decisions with emotional logic independent of the literal facts - in more cases than not. People have strong emotional habits and those emotions dictate the choices, not the information.
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