Book Review : Decisive

Decisive Book Review – How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

Should I or shouldn’t I ?  It’s a difficult question that we face every day.  Chip and Dan Heath have written a guide to helping you better make difficult decisions, in all aspects of life.

It seems like every time I turn around, there are more opportunities and consequently more choices to make.  I’ve found this book tremendously helpful, allowing me to avoid “analysis paralysis” and make better decisions more quickly.

I’ve recommended this book to several friends and colleagues, who have also found Decisive to be a powerful tool.

Here’s an overview of the book.

Chapter 1:

They go over the four key reasons we have difficulty making decisions:

  1. You frame up choices based upon your own, narrow,  experience. 
  2. Your confirmation bias skews the information you gather. 
  3. Your short term emotion tempts you to make bad decisions. 
  4. And once you’ve made a decision, you stick with it out of pride and overconfidence.

So how do you solve for this ?  By widening your options, reality testing your assumptions, getting a different perspective (expanding your focus) before deciding, and embracing your mistakes (and quickly fixing them!)

Chapter 2: Avoid a narrow frame.  Your decisions are typically not binary; you have more than two choices.  You can shift your focus from the current options to other options by thinking about the opportunity cost of your decisions.  Try eliminating your current options, and forcing yourself to come up with new options.  It’s easier if you step outside the solution, and look at it as an outsider.

Chapter 3: Multitracking.  Embrace considering numerous options simultaneously, which allows you to shape the problem while keeping egos in check.  Just beware of unrealistic options that can lead you, the decision maker, towards an option that only appears to be the best compared to the others.  Switch between a mindset that avoids negative outcomes and pursues positive outcomes.

Chapter 4: Find some who has solved your problem.  Look internally and externally (even with competitors) to find the best solution, even to problems you may not know that you have.

Chapter 5: Considering the opposite.  Acknowledge your confirmation bias, which leads you to confirm you initial assumptions.  Encourage groups to bring dissenting opinions.  Ask the uncomfortable questions (“why doesn’t it work?”).

Chapter 6: Zoom out, zoom in.  The value of your information is critical to your decision making process.  You need to pivot your decision making from close up to outside views, to get the best, most accurate, information.

Chapter 7: Ooch.  You don’t need to make big decisions.  Make many small decisions, and evaluate each one to make sure it is ultimately leading you to the right outcome.

Chapter 8: Overcoming your short term emotion.  All of our decisions are impacted by our own biases.  We’re apt to hold onto our original ideas out of pride, to stay within our comfort zones, to avoid losing – all of which affect your decision making.  Try looking at the decision from the outside, … what would you tell your best friend to do ?

Chapter 9 : Honor your core priorities.  By identifying (even documenting) your core priorities, you’ll make your decision making process easier.  Zappos does this, and you should too.

Chapter 10 : Bookend the future.  Give yourself best case and worst case scenarios (much like investing in stocks) and use those as guidelines.  Anticipate problems, create tripwires to quickly identify them, and quickly implement solutions when problems occur.

Chapter 11 : Set a tripwire.  Make sure that you’ve documented your ultimate goals, and set up best and worst case tripwires which automatically trigger when you need to make a decision.

Chapter 12 :  Trusting the process.  Whether you are making a decision alone or with a group, you have to trust the process.  For group decisions, make sure that the “rules” are established ahead of time, and that the process is perceived as fair for everyone.

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