Saturday, August 3, 2013

in Decisive...

My husband just introduced me to the Heath Brothers (Chip and Dan Heath) and their current book Decisive : How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

From GoodReads:
The four prinicples that can help us to overcome our brains' natural biases to make better, more informed decisions -- in our lives, careers, families and organizations.
In Decisive, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, the bestselling authors of Made to Stick and Switch, tackle the thorny problem of how to overcome our natural biases and irrational thinking to make better decisions, about our work, lives, companies and careers.
    When it comes to decision making, our brains are flawed instruments.  But given that we are biologically hard-wired to act foolishly and behave irrationally at times, how can we do better?  A number of recent bestsellers have identified how irrational our decision making can be.  But being aware of a bias doesn't correct it, just as knowing that you are nearsighted doesn't help you to see better.  In Decisive, the Heath brothers, drawing on extensive studies, stories and research, offer specific, practical tools that can help us to think more clearly about our options, and get out of our heads, to improve our decision making, at work and at home.

I feel like I make a lot of decisions; you probably do too. And yet, we are probably not as effective at making decisions as we could be.

Think of a decision you're grappling with right now or a decision you've made but are now questioning. How did you arrive at your decision? What process did you use? What role did bias play?

We’re quick to jump to conclusions because we give too much weight to the information in front of us and we fail to search for new information, which might disprove our thoughts. The Heath brothers call this the "spotlight" effect. (Think of the way a spotlight in a theater directs our attention; what's inside the spotlight is crisply illuminated.) We draw conclusions from a very small pool of information in the "spotlight".  And that, in essence, is the core difficulty of decision making...  

What's in the spotlight will rarely be everything we need to make a good decision, but we won't always remember to shift the light so we can see the broader landscape beyond the 'spot'.

Decisive introduces us to a framework for decision making... one that goes beyond the typical pros-and-cons list. The book begins by introducing us to 

The Four Villains of Decision Making:
1. Narrow Framing: “… the tendency to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms. We ask, “Should I break up with my partner or not?” instead of “What are the ways I could make this relationship better?” 
2. Confirmation Bias: “When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting attitudes, beliefs, and actions.” We pretend we want the truth, yet all we really want is reassurance.  
3. Short-term Emotion: “When we’ve got a difficult decision to make, our feelings churn. We replay the same arguments in our head. We agonize about our circumstances. We change our minds from day to day. If our decision was represented on a spreadsheet, none of the numbers would be changing—there’s no new information being added—but it doesn’t feel that way in our heads.”  
4. Overconfidence: “People think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold.”

Now, to defeat these four villains, we are to apply a strategy they've labeled  WRAP:
1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options. So …Widen Your Options. How can you expand your sent of choices? …
2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information. So … Reality-Test Your Assumptions. How can you get outside your head and collect information you can trust? …
3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one. So … Attain Distance Before Deciding. How can you overcome short-term emotion and conflicted feelings to make better choices? …
4. Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold. So … Prepare to Be Wrong. How can we plan for an uncertain future so that we give our decisions the best chance to succeed?
If you'd like to delve further into this process, you can sign up on their website and access the free resource pages, work books, interviews, book club guide, and the first chapter of Decisive.

So... what's stopping you? Could it be, perhaps, your own natural biases?


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