Book summary: Decisive

Why is it that we may have strong feelings for or against someone before we know anything about them? Why do we have an irrational fear of strangers?

On the other hand, why do we place too much emphasis on information that is directly in front of us while overlooking information that is just offstage?

These are the issues Chip and Dan Heath set out to solve in their book Decisive. What can we do to improve? According to the Heath brothers, we need a method to help us make decisions and become more decisive.

So join us for 10 minutes to learn more about this process and how it may help us make better life and career decisions.

Out with the Old

When we consider how we would formalize a choice, we make a pros and cons list. This method has been utilized for a long time. The Heath Brothers, on the other hand, feel it is faulty.

Flaw #1: Narrow framing.

We limit ourselves by defining our options in binary terms: YES or NO. WIN or LOSE. IN FAVOR OF or AGAINST.

Why does it have to be competition for every decision? What if we had the best of both worlds?

There are many more possibilities when looking through a broader lens, or 'outside the limelight,' as the brothers put it. It's simple to be biased since positives and drawbacks are formed in our brains.

We assume we're making a rational comparison, but our brains are actually obeying commands from our instincts. This leads to the second problem.

Flaw #2: Confirmation Bias.

A woman is reading a book searching for information.

Our natural tendency is to create an instant opinion about a topic and then seek for information to support that opinion.

We are more inclined to choose the information that supports our prior attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors while gathering data to evaluate choices.

When we want something to be true, we emphasize the factors that support it, resulting in more benefits than drawbacks.

Flaw #3: Short-term Emotion.

When we're faced with a difficult choice, we might lose sleep over it. In our heads, we keep replaying the same arguments. We wring our hands over our predicament.

The most important thing we require is a change of viewpoint. It's not a good idea to consider the advantages and disadvantages separately. Nothing, good or terrible, exists in isolation. We must avoid the fourth error by looking at the larger picture.

Flaw #4: Overconfidence.

People, like ourselves, believe we know more about the future than we do. We place much too much faith in our own projections.

When we make predictions about the future, we focus our attention on readily available information and then draw inferences from it. We need to inject some realism into the mix. We want a reliable benchmark.

In With the New

So, what approach do the Heath brothers provide for overcoming these weaknesses and making better decisions? Here's how decision-making often works:

  • We are confronted with a decision. However, restrictive framing causes us to overlook possibilities. As a result, the Heath brothers recommend that we Widen Our Options.
  • We weigh our alternatives. However, confirmation bias causes us to acquire information that benefits us. As a result, the Heaths advise us to Reality-Test Our Assumptions.
  • We make a decision. Short-term feeling, on the other hand, tempts us to make the wrong decision. As a result, the Heath brothers advise us to Attain Distance Before Deciding.
  • Then we have to deal with it. However, we will frequently be overconfident in our predictions regarding the future. As a result, the Heath brothers encourage us to Prepare to Be Wrong.

That's the whole thing. That's how the WRAP works. Let's take a closer look at each of the steps.

Widen Our Options

2 workers brainstorm.

Have you ever asked yourself the following questions? "How am I going to make this work?" "How can I enlist the support of my coworkers?"

Yes? So why don't we ask these questions? "Doesn't there have to be a better way? "Is there anything else we could do?" The key to expanding our possibilities is to find answers to the second set of questions.

The first step is to develop a distrust for "whether or not" decisions. Focusing is wonderful for assessing options, but not so much for spotting them.

The brothers advise that we adjust our position and anticipate that we won't pick any of the present alternatives. What other options do we have? This frequently results in the development of new and inventive solutions.

Another alternative is to multi-track and evaluate many ideas at the same time. The direct comparison allows us to assess choices honestly and equally, and it seems appropriate as a result.

We need to provide alternatives that are genuinely different to reap the benefits of multi-tracking. We must also be wary of fake options, which exist just to make the "genuine" option appear better.

Reality-Test Our Assumptions

We all suffer from the same flaw: a bias that favors our own opinions. Confirmation bias causes us to seek out information that supports our presumptions.

So, how can we avoid confirmation bias and learn to Reality-Test the Assumptions we make?

The first stage is to examine the polar opposite of our first inclinations, starting with a readiness to engage in constructive conflict.

How many of us have ever purposefully sought out people who we knew would disagree with us in our own decisions? Is there such a thing as a devil's advocate? We owe ourselves a pinch of skepticism when making high-stakes decisions.

The Heath brothers note that the Pentagon employs a "murder board" of experienced officers to try to sabotage ill-conceived operations, and they propose that we do the same.

The brothers recommend that we consider each possibility individually and ask ourselves, "What would have to be true for this choice to be the correct answer?"

When we are asked to determine what would have to be true for a certain method to succeed, our frame of mind shifts, allowing us to step back from our beliefs and learn something new. It makes it possible for individuals to differ without becoming irritable.

The Zoom Out and Zoom In method is a second option.

When we zoom out, we get a bird's eye view of the situation, learning from the mistakes of others who have faced similar decisions.

We zoom in on an issue to get a closer look at it and seek detailed information that might help us choose.

Either method is beneficial, and we should use both whenever feasible.

Zooming out and in, according to the brothers, offers us a more accurate view of our options. We minimize the positive images we create in our heads and instead focus our attention on the outside world, seeing things from a wide perspective before zooming in.

A third alternative is to touch the water with our toes before diving in or to 'ooch,' as the Heath brothers describe. To ooch is to set up tiny tests to see if our theory is correct.

When we need additional information, we should use ooching. Ooching should be used to speed up gathering reliable information, not to drag down a choice that requires our full attention.

To ooch is to ponder the question, "Why should we predict something we can test?" Why speculate when we can be certain?

Attain Distance Before Deciding

A man is thinking before make a decision.

Sometimes we have to make a difficult decision, and that's when we need to get some space.

As the brothers explain, when we're faced with a difficult problem, it's easy to lose perspective. We are not, however, captives to our feelings.

The intensity of visceral emotion diminishes. We should, as Meat Loaf says, "sleep on it." This is excellent counsel, and we should heed it. Sleep, on the other hand, is insufficient for many judgments. We require a strategy.

We should utilize 10/10/10, according to the Heath brothers. What will we think about it after 10 minutes? What about in ten months? What about in ten years? It allows us to put some space between ourselves and our decisions.

10/10/10 invites us to change our focus, asking us to envision a situation 10 months from now to see if we'll feel the same way. That way, we can keep our short-term emotions in check.

Why is it that "distance" is so beneficial? It makes the problem less personal. It's simple to advise friends since it doesn't directly impact us; it's more difficult to work through our own issues.

"When we think of our friends, we see the forest. When we think of ourselves, we get stuck in the trees," the brothers expressed it plainly.

Prepare to Be Wrong

The final step is to prepare for the possibility of being incorrect.

We must be realistic about what the future may hold, both good and terrible. We broaden our perception of what's conceivable when we think about the extremes, and that expanded range better represents reality.

Conducting a premortem is one technique.

Every team member spends a few minutes writing down every possible cause for the project's failure. Once all of the dangers have been identified, the project team may adjust its plans to avoid as many unfavorable outcomes as possible.

In essence, a premortem is mapping out future possibilities and designing solutions to prevent them.

On the other hand, we can think of a "pre-parade." A pre-parade envisions a perfect outcome: Our choice was a huge success, and a parade will be held in our honor. How do we ensure that we are prepared for that future?

Both of these methods enable us to envision and plan for the future. But what about raising awareness in advance of an event? Setting a tripwire is suggested.

A tripwire's purpose is to startle us out of our unconscious habits and remind us that we have a choice.

The brothers share David Lee Roth's (Van Halen's lead singer) tripwire - a brown M&M in the bowl backstage at the band's concerts.

Backstage, he requested bowls of M&Ms – but no browns – in his rider. Brown M&M's gift stated that the contracts hadn't been read correctly and cautioned him to pay close attention to the complicated staging where damage may occur if similar negligence happened.

Tripwires signal when it's time to leap. Setting tripwires does not ensure that the proper judgments are made.

On the other hand, Tripwires guarantee that we are conscious when it is time to make a decision and that we don't lose out because we've been lulled into autopilot.

So there you have it, a nice summary of the decisions that will influence your entire future success.

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