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Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition [Hardcover]

by Michael J. Mauboussin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 12, 2009 1422176754 978-1422176757
Leaders in all fields-business, medicine, law, government-make crucial decisions every day. The harsh truth is that they mismanage many of those choices, even though they have the right intentions. These blunders take a huge toll on leaders, their organizations, and the people they serve.

Why is it so hard to make sound decisions? We fall victim to simplified mental routines that prevent us from coping with the complex realities inherent in important judgment calls. Yet these cognitive errors are preventable. In Think Twice, Michael Mauboussin shows you how to recognize-and avoid-common mental missteps, including:

-Misunderstanding cause-and-effect linkages

-Aggregating micro-level behavior to predict macro-level behavior

-Not considering enough alternative possibilities in making a decision

-Relying too much on experts

Sharing vivid stories from business and beyond, Mauboussin offers powerful rules for avoiding each error. And he explains how to know when it's time to think twice-to question your reasoning and adopt decision-making strategies that are far more effective, even if they seem counterintuitive.

Master the art of thinking twice, and you'll start spotting dangerous mental errors-in your own decisions and in those of others. Equipped with this awareness, you'll soon begin making sounder judgment calls that benefit (rather than hurt) your organization.

Editorial Reviews


“… a fine pick for any business collection strong in management issues, and addresses some of the predecessors of bad mistakes.” — Bookwatch
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Michael J. Mauboussin is Chief Investment Strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management. He has been an adjunct professor of finance at Columbia Business School since 1993. BusinessWeek's Guide to the Best Business Schools highlighted him as one of the school's "Outstanding Faculty"-a distinction received by only seven professors.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (October 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422176754
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422176757
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael J. Mauboussin is head of global financial strategies at Credit Suisse. He is also an adjunct professor of finance at Columbia Business School.

Learn more at

Photo by Andrew Kist.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
130 of 135 people found the following review helpful
Over the millennia, our brains have been developed to be the most energy conserving part of our bodies due, in part, that our distant forefathers had to make quick decisions of friend or foe. Therefore, we rarely take time, and energy, to think or rethink things over. If one does not spend a little extra time to think thru your important decisions, you tend to be on "Thin Ice". For example, take another look at the title of the book, did you notice the graphical cryptogram ?!

This book is about mistakes and bad decisions of smart people, business executives, doctors, and others. Many of the reasons all these people and professions make bad decisions, in part, is that we all have a similar framework of having the same mental software basics. This can and does lead to false beliefs and bad decisions due to mental traps as the author describes. These default false beliefs that we all have inherited prevent clear thinking. As the author continues to describe throughout the book, "To make good decisions, you frequently must think twice - and that is something our minds would rather not do."

The book is a nice enjoyable read, very clear with the necessary psychology jargon, and has a very nice set of notes to follow-up on if you would like. All in, though short, this book comes highly recommended for any bookshelf on how to make better decisions.

As a side note: I have pointed out in other reviews, of other books below, that are in the same genre and which are some of my favorites.
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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Upgrade your decision making process January 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Think Twice represents the next step in Mauboussin's beneficial quest to help all of us identify the mistakes we make and provide the tools to fix them. It takes many of Mauboussin's past ideas, condenses a vast array of additional sources, and puts them in a manifesto on how to dodge the pitfalls of poor decision making. Mauboussin has managed to write a book that is interesting for everyone. Deceptively short at 143 pages (with 33 pages of notes and references), I recommend readers slow their pace to digest this book and internalize the tools and countless real world examples used to clarify and illustrate.

"No one wakes up thinking, "I am going to make bad decisions today." Yet we all make them." Think Twice outlines eight common mistakes, tries to help the reader recognize these in context, then provide ideas on how to mitigate your own tendency to repeat these same mistakes. Certain ideas recur throughout the text, including using data and models to inform decisions; viewing many real world situations as complex adaptive systems; as well as appreciating context and luck.

Each chapter focuses on one key error we make:
+Chapter 1: Viewing our problem as unique. Others have usually faced the same decisions we face and we can learn from their results to get to the right answer - for example in corporate M&A, you can look at how other similar deals have performed.
+Chapter 2: We fail to consider enough alternative options under pressure because we have models in our head that oversimplify the world; usually that helps us make quick decisions but often it causes us to leave out alternative choices which could be better. Incentives and unconscious anchoring on irrelevant information contribute to this tunnel vision.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A useful contribution to this genre February 21, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are now many good books available on why we make errors in judgment and decision making. This book represents Michael Mauboussin's contribution to this genre, and I think he has done a good job in pulling together a lot of information from a diverse range of credible sources. The information he presents has broad application, though he has a slight emphasis on business and investing applications (his own area of specialization). The book is also a fairly easy and quick read.

Perhaps the best way to describe the content of the book is to summarize the key points, roughly in the order they appear in the book:

(1) "Think twice" to avoid errors in judgment and decision making, especially in situations where stakes are high.

(2) Learn from the experiences of others in similar situations (making use of statistics when possible), rather than relying only on your own perspective, and don't be excessively optimistic about expecting to beat the odds.

(3) Beware of anecdotal information, since it can paint a biased picture. Related to this point, don't infer patterns which don't exist, especially when the available data is limited, and avoid the bias of favoring evidence which supports your beliefs while ignoring contradictory evidence (deliberately seek dissenting opinions if necessary).

(4) Avoid making decisions while at an emotional extreme (stress, anger, fear, anxiety, greed, euphoria, grief, etc.).

(5) Beware of how incentives, situational pressures, and the way choices are presented may consciously or subconsciously affect behavior and shape decisions.

(6) In areas where the track record of "experts" is poor (eg, in dealing with complex systems), rely on "the wisdom of crowds" instead.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
Lot's of good ideas that work well for the brain. I have listened to it 5 times already and will listen to it again and again.
Published 1 month ago by Tim Tuohy
4.0 out of 5 stars Think about How You Think
Thinking is not something that can be simply measured by an IQ test. The author describes rational thinking as including: mental flexibility, introspection, and proper calibration... Read more
Published 1 month ago by kschimmelwriter
4.0 out of 5 stars Decision Advice for a Complex World
A good summary, along the lines of Thinking Fast and Slow and Black Swan,, with cautions about default decision processes and confusion between correlation and cause, and tendency... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gerald McLaughlin
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about decision making
I recommend this book for those that are interested in investing or making decisions that impact complex systems or organisations. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Concepts can be applied to any life situation.
Easy to read; however, I re-read some chapters to make sure I understand a concept so that I can apply it to real life.
Published 7 months ago by Konstantin Kozhemyakov
4.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Sensible, but stops short of its promise...
I am not going to delve in too much detail about the contents of the book, other reviewers have done a very good job of that. Read more
Published 7 months ago by N M
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, strong thinking and how to get to it....
Mauboussin has long been a master at untangling fuzzy, muddled logic and then expressing how to clean up our thinking in simple language. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dr. P. Brent Wheeler
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Thought provoking, good read, but a little hard on good application of methods. Good examples of some issues, but not very deep on specific failures.
Published 9 months ago by Daniel Ryan
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book.
Brought up several ideas that bear more research. Lost interest in a few spots.
Not sure I buy in to all the points made in the book.
Published 12 months ago by linda bentz
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetition rehashed
This was a disappointment. Author mostly repeats what he has written in his other books, and then keeps saying the same few things. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Neil Sherman
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