By Chip and Dan Heath.
(Woot, I'm on the last of the reviews from vacation! When was I on vacation, you wonder? Uh...three weeks ago.)
This book is a super comprehensive and helpful discussion of (a) how people make decisions, (b) how they may make decisions badly, and (c) techniques one can use to improve their decision making skills. They don't promise that you'll always make better decisions, but it should help. Their plan can be summed up as widening your options, reality-testing your assumptions, attaining distance before deciding, and preparing to be wrong. The authors give examples of good and bad decision making and why companies and such made the decisions that they did.
Problems of decision making:
- Too narrow a frame--any time you think a problem boils down to "Should I break up with my partner or not?", that's a hint that it's too narrow of a trap. Statistically, more than half of decisions that are a "whether or not" end up failing because people aren't looking for other options.
- Confirmation bias--we pay attention to what we want to see and ignore what we don't.
- Being emotionally conflicted.
- People think they know more about how the future is going to go than they actually do. We assume things are probably going to go about the same as they have been for some time, but when they don't...
The authors suggest doing the following:
- Expand your options: look for other possible solutions, try imagining what you'd come up with if you ruled out one of your options, think about opportunity costs. If the choice is "this or that," why can't it be "both?"
- Try multitracking--different solutions being thought up by different teams to solve the same problem. If you have two good candidates, you won't be trying to talk yourself into confirmation bias. You really only need one or two more extra choices to improve your decision making without getting paralyzed by the choice.
- Some folks are "prevention focus" (focusing on preventing negative outcomes) and some ore "promotion focus" (focusing on pursuing positive ones). It's hard to embrace both at once, but it's best if you can switch back and forth.
- Find someone else who's solved the problem in real life and see how they did it. Or use analogies to find similar solutions.
- Try making a "playlist" of canned questions to ask to spark insights.
- Test your assumptions in reality.Ask probing questions, stoke some dissent.
- What evidence would exist to change your mind on something? Think about the opposite of your instincts.
- Try to perceive things from both up close and from far away.
- Construct small experiments to test your hypothesis- but don't use this if major commitment is required first.
- Try to gain some emotional distance from the decision.
- Figure out what your core priorities are and how your decision works with those or not.
- Prepare to be wrong. Try to think of the best and worst outcomes and how they could have come about. Anticipating problems helps you solve them.
- Set a tripwire, such as the brown M&M's story. They can get you out of autopilot mode and alert you to pay attention. Also try building in deadlines for reconsideration.
The end also has sections on recommended further reading, real world situations to discuss, and a FAQ-type list.
I was very impressed with this book and hope I'll use it--god knows I probably needed it the last time I was trying to make a "this or that" decision where I hated both options. (And ended up picking none of them.) Four stars. I'd recommend it to all.