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Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions Hardcover – September 10, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (September 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875848575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875848570
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 82 people found the following review helpful By epowers@dttus.com 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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42 of 44 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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37 of 40 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 63 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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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
When I started reading this book, I was bored and disappointed with the examples. The process of decision making -- problem, objectives, alternatives, consequences, and tradeoffs -- seemed obvious. And the examples were silly: Should John and Jane Doe buy a house? I wasn't interested, but when I continued reading, some parts, such as the chapters about risk and uncertainty, grasped me. I also found that just enumerating the decision making process made it a lot easier. The PrOACT solution is very intelligent. Even if you've never heard of decision theory, you use the system. By quantifying it and understanding how you make decisions, you'll naturally become a better decision maker. You'll know that there are alternatives to eating the whole cheesecake, or what the real reason you're putting off that assignment is. I run a website, called the Wall Street Wizard, [...] and it's helped me craft a better, more perceptive site because of my decisions on a daily basis. And it can help you. One of the best decisions you'll make is to buy this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Leonard on February 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As an executive I am faced with making key decisions almost every day. In many complex decisions there is almost always conflict between logical analysis vs. intuitive processing while there is a shortage of perfect information and time. Smart Decisions lays out a simple, clear and practical framework and process for decision making. Although many of the concepts are not novel, the power is that the book links various tools and technigues as discrete decision making steps. Each step builds on the next. They greatly enhance the concepts through many practical examples for making business and personal decisions. I highly recommend this book!
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