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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

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The four principles 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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published March 26, 2013

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About the author

Chip Heath

42 books1,265 followers
Chip Heath is the professor of Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
He received his B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford.

He co-wrote a book titled Switch How to Change Things When Change Is Hard with his brother Dan Heath.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,146 reviews
Profile Image for Eva.
486 reviews1 follower
June 13, 2013
The writing was so-so, and their so-called "WRAP" mnemonic seemed both contrived and uninformative:

Widen your options
Reality-test your assumptions
Attain distance before deciding
Prepare to be wrong

AND YET this was a pretty great book when it comes to offering practical advice for all sorts of decisions.

Some concepts/reminders I liked:

- Look at a wider range of possibilities. For instance, ask what you'd do if all the options you're considering disappeared. Or consider multiple options at the same time.

- If you can't decide, ask yourself what advice you'd give to a friend. Usually you'll have a quick answer.

- Avoid bad assumptions and confirmation bias in your analysis by seeking out more information, especially from those who have had that experience and who have an opposing perspective. Ask hard, specific questions to unearth issues. Do a "premortem" -- assume the project ends up failing, and ask yourself what the causes must have been. Then address them in the present.

- Give weight to base rates more than blind optimism about your perspective. If you open a restaurant, for instance, chances are it'll fail. That's more relevant than the fact you're a great chef.

- Run "experiments" before jumping in, like job-shadowing or making a prototype.

- Identify your values and priorities, and let them help guide your decisions.

- Deadlines ("tripwires") drive action -- whether the action is finishing, reevaluating, or quitting.

Misc. Kindle quotes:

An American Bar Association survey found that 44% of lawyers would recommend that a young person not pursue a career in law. - location 67

More than half of teachers quit their jobs within four years. - location 69

Samuel Johnson once described a second marriage as the “triumph of hope over experience.” - location 87

A British study of more than 3,000 people found that 88% of New Year’s resolutions are broken, including 68% of resolutions merely to “enjoy life more.” - location 90

When the researchers compared whether process or analysis was more important in producing good decisions—those that increased revenues, profits, and market share—they found that “process mattered more than analysis—by a factor of six.” - location 102

“Any time in life you’re tempted to think, ‘Should I do this OR that?’ instead, ask yourself, ‘Is there a way I can do this AND that?’ It’s surprisingly frequent that it’s feasible to do both things.” - location 153

Cole is fighting the first villain of decision making, narrow framing, which is 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?” We ask ourselves, “Should I buy a new car or not?” instead of “What’s the best way I could spend some money to make my family better off?” - location 164

I looked out the window at the Ferris Wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance, then I turned back to Gordon and I asked, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.” I stared at him, numb, then said, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back in, and do it ourselves?” This was the moment of clarity. From the perspective of an outsider, someone not encumbered by the historical legacy and the political infighting, shutting down the memory business was the obvious thing to do. The switch in perspectives—“What would our successors do?”—helped Moore and Grove see the big picture clearly. - location 228

A study showed that when doctors reckoned themselves “completely certain” about a diagnosis, they were wrong 40% of the time. When a group of students made estimates that they believed had only a 1% chance of being wrong, they were actually wrong 27% of the time. - location 280

You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options. • You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information. • You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one. • Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold. - location 294

Parents are often shocked, too, to hear that, once you control for aptitude, a person’s lifetime earnings don’t vary based on what college they attended. In other words, if you’re smart enough to get into Yale, it doesn’t really matter (from an income perspective) whether you go there or instead choose your much cheaper state university. - location 629

What would you do in this situation? Please circle one of the options below. (A) Buy this entertaining video. (B) Not buy this entertaining video. Given this choice, 75% bought the video and only 25% passed. Probably you’d have made the same decision—after all, it’s your favorite actor (Leonardo DiCaprio!) in your favorite type of film (sinking-ship movies!) and you’ve been considering it for a while. Later the researchers asked a different group of people the same question, but with a minor modification (printed here in bold): (A) Buy this entertaining video. (B) Not buy this entertaining video. Keep the $14.99 for other purchases. Surely the part in bold should not have to be stated. It’s obvious and even a little insulting. Do we really need to remind people that they can use their money to buy things other than videos? Nonetheless, when shown that simple, stupid reminder, 45% of the people decided not to buy the video. - location 676

Below, we give you a generic form of the Vanishing Options Test, which you can adapt to your situation: You cannot choose any of the current options you’re considering. What else could you do? - location 718

All of the designers ultimately created the same number of ads (six) and received the same quantity of feedback (five ad critiques). The only difference was the process: simultaneous versus one at a time. - location 853

Kathleen Eisenhardt has found that the opposite is true. In a study of top leadership teams in Silicon Valley, an environment that tends to place a premium on speed, she found that executives who weigh more options actually make faster decisions. It’s a counterintuitive finding, but Eisenhardt offers three explanations. First, comparing alternatives helps executives to understand the “landscape”: what’s possible and what’s not, what variables are involved. That understanding provides the confidence needed to make a quick decision. Second, considering multiple alternatives seems to undercut politics. With more options, people get less invested in any one of them, freeing them up to change positions as they learn. As with the banner-ad study, multitracking seems to help keep egos under control. Third, when leaders weigh multiple options, they’ve given themselves a built-in fallback plan. - location 877

Within a matter of months, under Whippy’s direction, the sepsis protocol was being actively implemented in other hospitals. By summer 2012, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, composed of 21 hospitals serving 3.3 million people, had driven down risk-adjusted mortality from sepsis to 28% below the national average. This solution has astonishing potential. If all hospitals could match Kaiser Permanente’s 28% reduction, it would be the annual equivalent, in lives saved, of saving every single man who dies from prostate cancer and every single woman who dies from breast cancer. - location 1153

we should find someone who has already solved our problem. To find them, we can look inside (for bright spots), outside (for competitors and best practices), and into the distance (via laddering up). - location 1390

For centuries, the Catholic Church made use of a “devil’s advocate” in canonization decisions (i.e., in deciding who would be named a saint). The devil’s advocate was known inside the church as the promotor fidei—the “promoter of the faith”—and his role was to build a case against sainthood. John Paul II eliminated the office in 1983, ending 400 years of tradition. Since then, tellingly, saints have been canonized at a rate about 20 times faster than in the early part of the twentieth century. - location 1491

Ask tough questions of the lawyers you meet. When you are at a recruiting dinner with a couple of lawyers from the firm, don’t just ask them, “So, do you folks have any kind of life outside of work?” They will chuckle, say “sure,” and ask if you want more wine. Instead, ask them how many times last week they had dinner with their families. And then ask them what time dinner was served. And then ask them whether they worked after dinner. Ask them what their favorite television show is or what is the last good movie they saw. If they respond, respectively, Welcome Back, Kotter and Saturday Night Fever, you will know something’s wrong.… When a lawyer tells you that he gets a lot of interesting assignments, ask for examples. You may be surprised at what passes for “interesting” at the firm. And when a lawyer tells you that associates are happy at the firm, ask for specifics. How many associates were hired five years ago? How many of those associates remain at the firm? Who were the last three associates to leave the firm? What are they doing now? How can you contact them? Asking tough, disconfirming questions like these can dramatically improve the quality of information we collect, - location 1596

The researchers explain that probing questions signal confidence and experience in the asker. The seller knows she isn’t likely to pull one over on you. There’s a similar signaling effect with Judge Schiltz’s questions. A law student is likely to get straight answers to the questions “How many associates were hired five years ago?” and “How many of those associates remain at the firm?” - location 1615

"assume positive intent” spurs us to interpret someone’s actions/words in a more positive light. - location 1779

Often in life, though, we do the opposite: We trust our impressions over the averages. For example, many people will accept a new job without consulting a sample of people who currently or formerly held the same title. Shouldn’t their “reviews” be as valuable as a stranger’s assessment of a hotel room or restaurant? Strange to think that when we make critical decisions, we do less objective research than when we’re picking a sushi joint. - location 1818

The inside view = our evaluation of our specific situation. The outside view = how things generally unfold in situations like ours. The outside view is more accurate, but most people gravitate toward the inside view. - location 2098

If you can’t find the “base rates” for your decision, ask an expert. - location 2104

Think about a student, Steve, who has decided to go to pharmacy school. What makes him think that’s a good option? Well, he spent months toying with other possibilities—medical school and even law school—and he eventually decided pharmacy was the best fit. He’s always enjoyed chemistry, after all, and he likes the idea of working in health care. He feels like the lifestyle of a pharmacist, with its semireasonable hours and good pay, would suit him well. But this is pretty thin evidence for such an important decision! Steve is contemplating a minimum time commitment of two years for graduate school, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and forgone income. He’s placing a huge bet on paltry information. This is a situation that cries out for an ooch, and an obvious one would be to work in a pharmacy for a few weeks. He’d be smart to work for free, if need be, to get the job. (Certainly if he can afford several years of school without an income, he can afford to take a monthlong unpaid internship.) Surely this concept—testing a profession before entering it—sounds obvious. Yet every year hordes of students enroll in graduate schools without ever having run an experiment like that: - location 2156

Imagine going to school for three or four years so you can start a career that never suited you! This is a truly terrible decision process, in the same league as an impromptu drunken marriage in Vegas. (Though maybe that’s unfair to Vegas, since a hungover annulment might be preferable to a hundred grand in student debt.) To correct this insanity, the leaders of many graduate schools of physical therapy have begun forcing students to ooch. Hunter College at the City University of New York, for instance, does not admit students unless they have spent at least a hundred hours observing physical therapists at work. That way, all incoming students are guaranteed a basic understanding of the profession they’re preparing to enter. - location 2166

Research has found that interviews are less predictive of job performance than work samples, job-knowledge tests, and peer ratings of past job performance. Even a simple intelligence test is substantially more predictive than an interview. - location 2355

“Often our best interviewees turn out to be our worst performers,” said Steve Cole of HopeLab. In response, HopeLab has begun to give potential employees a three-week consulting contract. - location 2375

in helping us to break a decision logjam, the single most effective question may be: What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation? It sounds simple, but next time you’re stuck on a decision, try it out. You’ll be surprised how effectively that question can clarify things. The two of us have talked to many people about thorny personal or professional decisions they were facing, and often they seemed flummoxed about the right thing to do. Then we’d ask them the “best friend” question, and almost always—often within a matter of seconds!— - location 2680

Peter Bregman, a productivity guru and blogger for the Harvard Business Review, recommends a simple trick for dodging this fate. He advises us to set a timer that goes off once every hour, and when it beeps, we should ask ourselves, “Am I doing what I most need to be doing right now?” - location 2972

By identifying and enshrining your core priorities, you make it easier to resolve present and future dilemmas. - location 2997

The psychologist Gary Klein, inspired by this research, devised a method for testing decisions that he calls the “premortem.” A postmortem analysis begins after a death and asks, “What caused it?” A premortem, by contrast, imagines the future “death” of a project and asks, “What killed it?” A team running a premortem analysis starts by assuming a bleak future: Okay, it’s 12 months from now, and our project was a total fiasco. It blew up in our faces. Why did it fail? - location 3136

You might assume that realistic job previews succeed by scaring away people who couldn’t have handled the job. That’s true to some extent, but it’s a relatively small factor. In fact, in some of the studies Phillips reviewed, people exposed to the job preview were no more likely to drop out of the recruitment process than other recruits who didn’t get the full, unvarnished truth. Instead, the success of realistic job previews seems to be driven by what Phillips calls a “vaccination” effect. By exposing people to a “small dose of organizational reality” before they start work, you vaccinate them against shock and disappointment. So at the call center, when a new customer-service rep finds herself on a call with an angry guy, she isn’t taken aback. She was expecting it. This explains an otherwise puzzling fact: Realistic job previews have been shown to reduce turnover even when they are given after the employee is hired. The previews are not just helping the “wrong” people opt out of the hiring process; they’re helping all people cope better when they confront the inevitable difficulties of the role. In fact, realistic job previews not only reduce turnover but also increase job satisfaction. - location 3294

The psychologists Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir offered college students a five-dollar reward for filling out a survey. When given a five-day deadline, 66% of the students completed the survey and claimed their rewards. When given no deadline, only 25% ever collected their money. The same phenomenon has been noted with substantially higher stakes. In Great Britain, the Economic and Social Research Council, which gives grants to university researchers in areas such as global economics, security, and education, decided to eliminate submission deadlines and accept proposals on a rolling basis. Research professors should have been relieved. Instead of having to submit proposals on a couple of fixed dates, usually smack dab in the midst of teaching commitments, they were now being given the flexibility to submit a proposal whenever they had time to do so. Proposal submissions promptly declined by 15% to 20%. This is not rational behavior: If students like the idea of getting five dollars for a survey, and if researchers need grant money, then they shouldn’t need a deadline to follow through. Yet while irrational, this behavior probably makes sense to all of us. Deadlines focus our mental spotlight on a choice. They grab us by the collar and say, If you’re gonna do this, you have to do it now. - location 3536

That minor difference had a major effect. The people who got the unwrapped cookies finished them, on average, in 6 days. Meanwhile, those who got the individually wrapped cookies took 24 days! The foil wrapper was acting as a partition, forcing people to contemplate whether they wanted to keep going. (Which suggests that we might be able to help casino-addicted retirees by wrapping slot machines in foil.) - location 3567

Researchers call this sense of fairness “procedural justice”—i.e., the procedures used to make a decision were just—as distinct from “distributive justice,” which is concerned with whether the spoils of a decision were divvied up fairly. An extensive body of research confirms that procedural justice is critical in explaining how people feel about a decision. It’s not just the outcome that matters; it’s the process. - location 3787

It works much better if I start out by agreeing: “Yep. Plan Z is a reasonable plan. Not only for the reasons you mentioned, but here are two more advantages. And Plan A—the plan that we chose—not only has the flaws that you mentioned, but here are three more flaws.” The effect of this technique is amazing. It seems completely counterintuitive, but even if you don’t convince people that your plan is better, hearing you explain your plan’s flaws—and their plan’s advantages—makes them much more comfortable. Hitz’s logic defies our natural PR instincts. Aren’t we supposed to vociferously defend our positions? Won’t we spook people if we admit weakness? No. Hitz has it right. A manager’s self-criticism is comforting, rather than anxiety producing, because it signals that she is making a reality-based decision. - location 3815

We should make sure people are able to perceive that the process is just. • High-stakes mediator Mnookin: “I state back the other side’s position better than they could state it.” • Entrepreneur Hitz: “Sometimes the best way to defend a decision is to point out its flaws.” - location 3955
Profile Image for Daniel Taylor.
Author 4 books82 followers
May 20, 2013
Your decision-making approach is probably a variation of the Benjamin Franklin method: you weigh up the pros and cons and go with the winner.

But, argue Chip and Dan Heath, this approach rarely leads to the best decisions. Using the Benjamin Franklin method can still see you fall victim to the “Four Villains of Decision Making”: framing your choice in too narrow terms, seeking out information that supports your biases, being influenced by short-term emotions, and being overconfident about the future.

Their decision making method addresses those areas. It shows you how to widen your options, reality-test your assumptions, attain distance before deciding and prepare to be wrong.

The Heath brothers are up front that making better decisions does not mean you’ll always make the right choice. But choosing from a wider range of options, and using less biased information to make your choice, does increase your chances of a successful decision.

Indeed, most of the time it’s better to make a decision, act, and be wrong, than to dither and delay.

You make countless decisions of varying importance every day. This book gives you tools to arrive at choices that you can implement with greater certainty.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,834 reviews72 followers
June 24, 2013
"I know one thing: that I know nothing."
- Socrates

For the past few years I've had a fascinating and fun journey working my way through a good collection of titles about how thinking works; more specifically, about how thinking doesn't work the way we think it works. That we are constantly lying to, misleading, and deluding ourselves. That our knowledge, perceptions, beliefs, memories, and actions aren't nearly as rational and reasonable as we like to think. That many of our decisions, both the little, daily ones and the big, life-changing ones aren't as sound and carefully reasoned as we believe. Titles on my shelves I'd include in this category:

- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely
- Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman
- You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself, by David McRaney
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink
- True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, by Farhad Manjoo
- Practical Wisdom: The Right Way To Do the Right Thing, by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe
- Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer
- The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, by David Brooks
- Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler
- Thinking, Fast and Slow , by Daniel Kahneman*

While there have been times the reading has left me feeling cynical and dispirited--that there is no point trying to communicate or connect with others since their assumptions and biases will confound my efforts anyway--for the most part it has been a helpful, healthy process of improving my self-awareness and interpersonal/emotional intelligence. They've made me a better listener, less sure of my own strident opinions in discussions and more likely to assume a generous "AND" stance instead of a combative "EITHER-OR" one.

Something they all have in common, for the most part, is that they spend the bulk of their time sharing the findings of recent research and studies in order to dispel our common-sense assumptions, and only after that leave a bit of space for talking about what to do with the new information. Decisive, on the other hand, starts with the new perspectives, explains them a little, then spends the bulk of its time sharing ways we can make better decisions in light of that information. It's less theoretical and idea-based, much more practical and applied.

And here's where I regret "reading" this book as an audio, because now that I've finished it I want to go back and revisit many parts to study them and consolidate my learning. Unfortunately, there is a long waiting list for our copies of the print book, so I won't be doing that in time to include specific thoughts in this review. In brief, the authors describe a process to follow when making decisions that will help counteract many of the tendencies that steer us wrong. It's not necessarily a step-by-step formula since each decision is unique and every context requires something different, but it provides guidance and a series of checks and balances to make sure we are properly considering the issue from a variety of helpful facets.

They abbreviate the process WRAP, which breaks down--with subcategories--as:

Widen Your Options
- Avoid a narrow frame
- Multitrack
- Find someone who's solved your problems
Reality-Test Your Assumptions
- Consider the opposite
- Zoom out, zoom in
- Ooch
Attain Distance Before Deciding
- Overcome short-term emotion
- Honor your core priorities
Prepare to Be Wrong
- Bookend the Future
- Set a Tripwire

Each point requires the explanations from the book to understand the authors' perspective (especially "ooch"; definition 2 here is vaguely in line with their meaning)--particularly since so much of it is about overcoming commonly accepted truths and operational habits that we unconsciously accept as acceptable--but I think it will be a very helpful process to get in the habit of following, with guidance from the material once it's in my hands.

If I have one complaint about the book, it's that the Heaths spend a little too much time describing the fine details of the real-world examples they use to illustrate all of their points and not enough dwelling in the world of ideas that I love so much. I would have been happier had they tipped the balance of information to case studies and exemplification in the other direction. But, then, this is a book for practitioners.


*Okay, I haven't finished the last one yet; I had both it and Decisive checked out and was considering which to make my next listen, and fairly randomly went with Decisive. I immediately regretted it when, in the introduction, the Heaths mentioned Thinking, Fast and Slow and Predictably Irrational as the two most important titles to read for background information on the studies and theories they worked from in writing this book. I'm now a few discs into it.
Profile Image for Brittany.
1,069 reviews36 followers
February 10, 2013
How I Came To Read This Book: I subscribe to the Heath bros' email list and they sent me an email alerting me to their latest title. After previewing the first chapter I came up with a nifty idea for a (pending) blog post and requested a review copy of this book to help round things out.

The Plot: As with the first two Heath bros' books, this is an advice compendium on a single topic - decision making. Culling real-world examples and other experts' advice, you're walked through a four-step process to help you grapple with major decisions in life, business, and where the two intersect.

The Good & The Bad: Another fantastic book that deserves a spot on my desk (note that I didn't say my bookshelf - these are books that you will constantly reference). What was particularly interesting about this one for me on a personal level was that although it wasn't about marketing - in fact it was probably the least directly linked TO marketing - the book used a ton of marketing case studies that left me feeling inspired. The amazing thing about all of the Heath books is the fact they aren't for one industry or one age group or one age bracket - the advice in them is really universal where you can apply it to so many different scenarios. And kudos to the boys for being able to consistently deliver palatable, piecemeal solutions and processes.

I will knock this book slightly for being a touch less focused than the incomparable Switch. Where the process of Switch at its core was incredibly simple - Motivate the Rider, Direct the Elephant, Shape the Path - the four steps here don't really make sense until you apply one of the many sub-approaches to each step. While it's impressive and important to have offered so many solutions to working out dilemmas, it also makes things a touch less clear, hence the need to have this book on your desk to constantly revert back to.

But again, considering how diverse and specialized each of our individual problems are, I'm impressed by how universal this book's approach really is. I can think of a dozen friends that should pick this one up!

The Bottom Line: Another fantastic book to complement the Heath brothers' winning streak of universal advice titles.

Anything Memorable?: Nope

65-Book Challenge?: Book #7 in 2013
Profile Image for Ayelet.
337 reviews1,437 followers
October 21, 2012
The book won't necessarily make you more decisive, but it will make you more confident in making your decisions. I know I sometimes agonize over major life decisions, and this book has given me the tools to not get so stressed out about whether I am making the right choice or not. Everyone who thinks pro/con lists are the only way to make decisions, or the best way to make decisions, is seriously misinformed and needs to read this book.
I'm not sure "ooching" is always practical, but I like the word. I love the idea of setting trip wires, and asking yourself "what would you tell your best friend to do?"
Profile Image for Simon Eskildsen.
215 reviews946 followers
October 6, 2017
After reading this book, I feel embarrassed about the way I've made decisions in the past. Decisive is a phenomenal resource for a fantastic decision-making process whether you're moving, considering a new job, making a technical decision, or just about anything else. I'm already endorsing this book left and right—if you make decisions, and you do, you need to read it. The techniques and mental models introduced are useful for anyone.

Decisive claims at no point to help you make perfect decisions. Exactly which option to choose comes down to domain expertise. However, what we do know, is that the overall decision-making process matters more than analysis of the individual decisions. Up to six times more, measured by one study. Often, we marry ourselves to the first option that appears, analyzing whether it's feasible, and move on. This is an unfortunate process. You have not protected yourself adequately against confirmation bias, and you'd be an idiot to think it doesn't apply to you. It's unwise to think that pursuing the first and best is the right move. What's uncomfortable is that spending more time generating options means more time in the unknown-unknown space, but often yield solutions that are more effective and faster to implement—making up for this up-front investment.

(1) The first part of the decision-making process is to widen your options. Good decision-makers spend as much time as they can afford generating options and getting information about the problem. They protect themselves against confirmation bias by multitracking through evaluating multiple options simultaneously, e.g., designers typically produce better final designs if they have multiple designs on the go to receive feedback on. It protects them against unreasonable attachment to their work, leaving them defensive against criticism. To come up with more options, you ask yourself questions like: "Who has solved this problem before, and what can I learn from them?" If you ever hear the phrase "whether or not to [..]", it should instantly be a red flag. If you're asking "whether or not to buy the more expensive video game console," you may not have considered that the difference in money could be spent on games. Ask yourself: "If none of the current options are available, what would I do?". Keep generating options; it won't hurt. Like when buying a house, a good rule of thumb is that you have to "fall in love twice" before you're ready to go with an option.

(2) step is to reality-test your assumptions. This is where you conduct experiments, what's the cheapest and fastest way to test an assumption? You find the base rates of success, e.g., if you're starting a restaurant and the base rate of success is 60%, maybe you should reconsider whether it's the best investment for you. You'd be a fool to think that you'd differ much from the base rate. The most powerful question from this chapter is to ask yourself for each option: "What would it take for this option to be the best one?" Or a variant of this: "What would it take to change your mind?". As you get more information implementing your solution (or prototype), you may find that you have to step back and go with a different option since an assumption didn't pass the reality test.

(3) is to attain-distance from the decision. We've all heard that we should sleep on it, and this is true. I read in another book that "You can always tell the man off tomorrow if it is such a good idea." Consider that it's easier to give a friend advice than yourself, what would you tell a friend to do? If you were replaced, what would your successor do? For example, Intel was challenged by Japanese companies out of the memory business—core to them in the 80s. Grove, the CEO, finally asked himself: "What would my successor do?" and decided to drop the bread & butter memory business and focus on microprocessors. A bold, prudent move. Be conscious at this point of the status quo bias: whatever was already there, is going to seem more comfortable. Whatever is familiar, is much more likely to be chosen—but it doesn't mean it's the best decision. One of my favorite techniques from this chapter is the 10/10/10 question: How would you feel about this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now? This can easily give fantastic perspective to a decision. The time-frames don't matter much—the idea is to take a look at reality going back after a short period, medium, and long.

(4) is to prepare to fail. My favorite tools from the book come from this chapter. The premortem is a technique where you imagine yourself a year from now, and ask your team the question: "The project was a massive disaster, what happened?" This question triggers hindsight, and gives much better answers (and I've tried this myself, too) than "What are the biggest existential risks to this project?". In the same vein, you can try a pre-parade: "The project was a massive success, are we ready?" Which can help you figure out whether you know how to get the most leverage out of a success as well as identify risks, such as supply-chain issues ("can we produce enough iPhones?"). The most powerful technique from this part of the book is "tripwires." Decisions are often not re-evaluated when conditions change. For every major decision, you should be able to answer what would change your mind to re-evaluate in the future. For example, Kodak may have made the right call in the 80s to not get into digital photography, but by the late 90s, they should've pivoted. When the decision to not pursue digital was made, they should've set the tripwire: "When the market is 10% digital, we will reconsider our investment."

I've already started using many of the ideas from this book and really enjoyed it. You should too!
Profile Image for Shane.
40 reviews4 followers
April 27, 2013
This book has become my go-to reference for rational thinking and decision making. Highly rational and successful people will know most of the tricks in the book, but I haven't seen it codified in a single place before. The well-read in this area will already be familiar with much of the research: Kahneman, Ariely, Thaler, Roberto, Carroll, and so on. The topics:

1) Widen your options. There are never only just two choices, think about opportunity costs, or creative ways to get everything. Find someone who's solved the same problem in the same or different domain.

2) Reality-test your assumptions. What would it take for your assumptions to be wrong? Can you test your assumptions?

3) Attain distance before deciding. Get away from short-term emtions. Define your core priorities.

4) Prepare to be wrong. Define "bookends" that are acceptable operating boundaries. Set a tripwire where you'll shift gets. What if you're "too" successful?

I recommend this book to anyone aspiring to rationality or already believes that he's rational. It's an easy read and will probably teach something to anyone.
Profile Image for Farhana.
300 reviews171 followers
June 14, 2017
I feel life seems difficult because of this 'decision' making thing.
Decision isn't just what one chooses to do rather it 'flows' from one's life to another. Our decisions not only affect our lives but other people's lives around us. In the same way, other people or institution's decisions affect us - sometimes make us happy, sometimes make us suffer !

Umm, this type of books sound captivating, trying to make decision making easier & meaningful.
How we can make better decisions not shading off our ego, short term emotions, overconfidence.
This book is about making positive decisions but after all there are people who make negative
decisions or make decisions that cause sufferings to other people. I wonder if there's any way
to check these negative decisions so that other people will not have to suffer for them !
Profile Image for Ali alhusainy.
55 reviews4 followers
July 3, 2020
كتاب رائع يتعرض لمفهوم و عملية اتخاذ القرار في عدد كبير من الظروف مع نظرة خاصة لعالم الاعمال بسبب خطورة هذه القرارات و اهميتها بالنسبة للمنظمات

الكتاب يعرض الكثير من الامثلة الواقعية و كذلك لطرق التفكير الصحيح و ايضاح الاخطاء او الانحيازات التي قد تؤثر على عملية اتخاذ القرارات

الماخذ الوحيد هو بعض الاطالة في بعض الاجزاء

انصح به للجميع
Profile Image for Mike.
1,462 reviews133 followers
September 18, 2016
Listened to this as an audiobook through my public library's Overdrive subscription/e-book lending experience.

Books like this are hard for me to sit down and read, no matter how engagingly written. I actually had the hardcover out from the library as well, and couldn't get even deeply into the first chapter. Just doesn't engage, my brain wanders off immediately. Sad. I used to read tons of prose. (I think the Internet broke me - Reddit especially).

Anyway, overall this felt a little fluffy - like there were good observational ideas there, and as long as you fully committed to the thinking/are direction practices espoused, you'll see marked improvements in those crucial decision moments.

For the rest of us, looking for a quick fix and some mental shortcuts around the hard work of examining our lazy demons and why we're content with not achieving to our potential? Meh, interesting stories and probably a few things that will ring far-off bells in the future.

Cliff Notes for self in the future:
- To simplify a decision: "What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?"
- To reduce chance of personal bias overriding rational data: "Search for disconfirming evidence"
- To overcome short-term resistance: "10, 10, 10 - think how you'd feel 10 minutes from making the decision, 10 months, and ten years"
- To accelerate decisions where there's not enough viable data: "perform a small experiment that will provide real-world feedback (an 'ooch')
Profile Image for Eva.
486 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2013
I've only read the first chapter so far, but I have to mark it as read to leave some notes :)

"An American Bar Association survey found that 44% of lawyers would recommend that a young person not pursue a career in law." - p5

"[The researchers] asked the teams about their decision process--the softer, less analytical side of the decisions. Had the team explicitly discussed what was still uncertain about the decision? Did they include perspectives that contradicted the senior executive's point of view? Did they elicit participation from a range of people who had different views of the decision?...they found that 'process mattered more than analysis--by a factor of six.'" - p7

"[we have] the tendency to define our choices to narrowly, to see them in binary terms." - p10

Summary = "WRAP" (p18 on)

"1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options....So WIDEN your options."

"2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving info....So REALITY-TEST your assumptions."

"3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one....So ATTAIN distance before deciding."

"4. Then you live with it. But you'll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold....So PREPARE to be wrong."
Profile Image for Jeanne.
932 reviews63 followers
May 14, 2018
Economists like to talk about people as rational beings who weigh the costs and benefits of decisions. Psychologists know we're not the rational beings economists believe we are. We know people overvalue short-term benefits and respond to short-term emotions, fail to see other options, confirm rather than challenge biases, and jump in headfirst.

Want to make better decisions? Then read Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

Chip and Dan Heath are not psychologists – they teach in, respectively, Stanford's and Duke's Business programs. Still they get it right, and they do it clearly and engagingly, organizing Decisive around the mnemonic WRAP:
Widen Your Options
Reality-Test Your Assumptions
Attain Distance Before Deciding
Prepare to Be Wrong
Good advice. In each chapter, the Heaths summarize the relevant research clearly and present strong examples illustrating the principles they describe. They summarize each chapter beautifully in one page with brief hints to the reader.

A good read.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
672 reviews754 followers
May 30, 2013
الكتاب نافع ومميز في طرح موضوع اتخاذ القرارات. الأخوان هيث لهم أسلوب سلس ومركز و متسلسل على شكل نقاط في كتبهم مثل made to stick. وجدت أول الكتاب أكثر تشويقا وفائدة من الفصول الأخيرة . و أظن أن بعض النقاط كانت واضحة بدون الحاجة إلى مزيد من الأمثلة المطولة.
الكتاب يساعد على انتاج قرارات أفضل في مجال الحياة والعمل . و فيه من الإضاءات العلمية ما يجعلك تتفهم كثير من قراراتك السابقة و كثير من قرارات من حولك. وغالب ما تغالبه داخليا ويغالبك في قراراتك الحالية .
أنصح بقراءته....
Profile Image for Pam.
254 reviews367 followers
January 29, 2023
Another great Heath brother's book giving you memorable case studies and actionable items to take on business and personal dilemmas. This is one that you highlight, refer back to, quote, and use as often as necessary.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 32 books80 followers
June 29, 2013
No more checking Heath & Heath books out of the library to check out their merit. This is 3 for 3 for, "I need this on my shelf as a reference, to lend to friends, to reference in presentations, to..."

If you make perfect decisions, don't read it. If you want to improve, this is full of practical, effective methods.
Profile Image for Brian.
2 reviews12 followers
March 1, 2014
Key takeaway: When you make a decision, follow the WRAP-process: Widen your Options, Reality-test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong.
Profile Image for Mai Kijkul.
27 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2018
An easy read (full of fun anecdotes!) that provides a solid framework for decision making. Most people have probably used bits and pieces of the methods mentioned here and there, but never so consciously or methodically. The point is to stick to a thorough process so we can ward off cognitive biases and keep our own egos and short term emotions in check. I found the advice practical and applicable to work and everyday life.
Profile Image for Jay Connor.
272 reviews77 followers
May 4, 2013
A pretty good sign for the value received in a book is how many blog postings can you get out of it. If you count this book review, "Decisive," has generated three postings for me -- a good return.

In their book "Decisive," Chip and Dan Heath suggest that to make the most effective choices we need to go beyond the way we have traditionally made decisions individually or in group environments. They identified four “villains” of decision making that interfere with making good choices: narrow framing, confirmation bias, short-term emotion, and overconfidence. I look at these "villains" through a complex systems, collective impact community lens at http://www.workingdifferently.org/4/p... There I show show how the habits developed in working differently communities help vanquish these villains (See: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Communities http://www.workingdifferently.org/4/p...).

They then introduce the WRAP process to help us become better decision-makers by vanquishing the Four Villains: Widen your options; Reality check your options; Attain distance before deciding; and, Prepare to be wrong. Though they spend most of the book describing the process, it isn't until the "Case Studies" at the end of the book that the authors truly breath life into WRAP. Which is the subject of another blog.

The ground the brothers Heath stake-out is pretty much the anti-Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and the non-neuronic How We Decide (Josh Lehrer). It is a self-help check list / process that comes together in the last chapter. It is definitely worth reviewing in the face of important decisions.

Profile Image for Jacob.
879 reviews49 followers
January 6, 2016
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by the same authors was so good that I added this and another to my to-read list simply because I was interested in what these guys had to say, since they said it so well. This book is another great swing at taking a problem, analyzing it in an organized way, and presenting solutions that can help you make important decisions in your life.

They describe decision-making as a process and provide an acronym, WRAP, to represent four areas in which you can work to correct for your biases while making decisions. Many of the techniques are practical and helpful, and while they won't eliminate human bias and limited thinking, they should help. I've stumbled across some of them myself and they've been some of the techniques I've valued most. The last book was good enough I decided to buy it, and I'm pretty sure this one is too.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,350 reviews462 followers
May 16, 2013
Solid advice.
The ideas are not particularly novel, e.g. piloting an idea before taking it to full scale, but that's time-tested wisdom-- as opposed to the flim-flam in other books on decision-making (e.g. Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide). The writing style is a nice accessible middle ground between academic boring and gee-whiz ridiculous. I think this book could be helpful to many readers, especially young people.
Given the cover, I was hoping for a thorough discussion of the Magic 8 Ball, but it is not part of the authors' recommended protocol.
Profile Image for Soheil.
153 reviews19 followers
August 27, 2016
Another book from the Heath brothers that focuses on decision making.
The book offers a very practical framework for decision making which helps you overcome the pitfalls you may face when making a decision. Examples of pitfalls include narrow framing, confirmation bias, over confidence, etc.
The book goes on to offer a process called WRAP which helps you make better life decisions. WRAP stands for:
Widen your options
Reality-test your ideas
Attain distance before deciding
Prepare to be wrong

The book is well written and contains various real case studies that help drive the point home. An absolutely recommended read.
Profile Image for Jen.
30 reviews
April 7, 2013
I received a pre-publication galley of this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I enjoyed reading Chip & Dan Heath's research into the biases that often unconsciously guide individuals and corporations in making decisions, how these biases can lead to poor choices, and the four-stop process the Heath brothers developed to help people make better decisions. This book will merit re-reading to help absorb all the steps and options they discuss. However, the examples and anecdotes they provide make reading this book entertaining, as well as helping cement some of their points in my memory.
Profile Image for Ali Sattari.
119 reviews35 followers
July 17, 2017
Although I have read most of reference books mentioned in Decisive, Yet I hadn't put together practical techniques and advices for every day decision making. That is what this book had for me, a model (WRAP) for day to day application and constant practice.
Profile Image for Minwoo.
59 reviews20 followers
February 16, 2016
I'm glad to have read it. Enforced what I've learned over time to be good practices (e.g. bookending future outcomes) and introduced me to new techniques (e.g. 10/10/10, ooching). The read itself was slightly laborious in the middle, hence 4 stars for me. Felt like I was attending lectures mid-semester, getting hit with one topic after another without a break. Once I had the end in sight and wrapped my head around the whole book (no pun intended), felt like it was a journey well worth taking.
Profile Image for Max Tolstokorov.
10 reviews4 followers
August 29, 2016
I would give it 4 stars for the narrative but 6 stars for the box of decision-making tools and a dozen of "a-ha" moments. So the average is 5 :)
Profile Image for Rob Thompson.
482 reviews44 followers
September 30, 2017
About the authors: Brothers Dan Heath (Senior Fellow at Duke University, supporting social entrepreneurs) and Chip Heath (Professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University) are the authors of international bestsellers Switch and Made to Stick.

The book identifies the main issues that typically stand in the way of decision making: a narrow view on our problems, short-term emotions, and overconfidence when it comes to predicting the future. It gives knowledgeable insight into how our decisions are formed and how to avoid making bad ones.

My highlights:
What is in it for me: making decisions is hard, let’s learn how to do it right.
Our decision-making isn’t ideal: we think too narrowly; we’re biased by previous choices, personal values and short-term emotions; and we’re overconfident about our decisions.
When you get stuck making a decision, don’t artificially limit your choices.
Consider the whole array of alternative options available to you.Consider teenagers. They often get stuck making decisions: Should I smoke cigarettes or not? Should I go to the party or not?It’s clear that these aren’t decisions that consider alternatives among multiple options. They’re just votes for or against a single option. The decision to go to that party or not, for instance, could be made a lot easier if the teen would consider that they could also go to the movies, or watch a football game. Another way to help you find your way out of a sticky decision is to consider the “opportunity cost” of your decision. In other words, what will you be giving up by making this choice?
When problem-solving, don’t pursue just one idea; multitrack many options to find the best solution.
Multitracking – or, actively trying out several options simultaneously – and it can improve the decision-making process dramatically.
By having more alternatives, you’re less invested in any single one, and therefore allow yourself to be more flexible in your opinion.
Another is that, when weighing multiple options, you always have a Plan B at hand. If Plan A fails, you have a fallback candidate.
However, you should beware of choice overload, as too many options may paralyze your decision-making.
Look at the solutions someone else has found for the same problem.
What you see as your problem may have already been solved by someone else. You just don’t notice it because their problem is slightly different.
To shake off any bias in your decisions, play devil’s advocate and try and build a case against your decision.
Consider what would have to be true to make your least favorite option, or just the other options, the best choice.By doing this, you’re not arguing for or against personal preferences, but instead analyzing the logical constraints of the options and allowing for disagreement without generating antagonism.
Ask disconfirming questions to surface opposing information.
Think about how your situation looks from the outside.
Although we often believe our situation is unique, it benefits us to look at how others in a similar situation have fared. We’re usually more alike than we tend to believe.
Rather than make a plan, run a small experiment to see if your idea works.
In many situations it’s wise to dip your toe in the water, rather than dive in headfirst. This process of testing ideas on a small scale is called ooching.
Instead of mulling endlessly over whether you should commit to a certain option, it is a good idea to first give it a try on a smaller scale.
To get some perspective on your decision, shift your focus to the future
Techniques for encouraging our brains to consider long-term consequences.The first is to find emotional distance by imagining the outcomes from a future perspective.This is because present emotions are often very clear and precise, while future emotions are not yet well-defined.
10/10/10: Actively consider future emotions by asking yourself how you would feel about your decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now.The second technique is to take the observer’s perspective.
By looking at your decision from an observer’s perspective – from a distance – the most important aspects will seem obvious to you.
When your decisions are based on conflicting values, identify your core priorities.
Sometimes our decisions aren’t distracted by short-term emotions, but by an unclear order of priorities in our lives.
Find your core priorities. Ask yourself: “Which long-term emotional values, goals or aspirations are most important to me?”
Once you’ve found your core priorities, you must commit yourself to acting on them. We only have a limited time in our lives, so spending more time on core priorities cannot be achieved without limiting the time we spend on other things.
What are you prepared to give up so you’ll have more time to spend on your core priorities?
To prepare for the consequences of your decisions, think of the future as a range rather than a point.
Consider both the worst and best possible outcomes, as this will allow you to estimate where you are at a given point, and react when reality moves closer to the worst outcome. To do this, you can use prospective hindsight – the notion that we can cognitively evaluate facts better than possibilities – to your advantage.
When you schedule your next project, consider on the one hand the importance of meeting the deadline and, on the other, the time that you expect the project to take, and add a safety factor for your own benefit.
Set a tripwire to shift from autopilot to manual control and enforce a decision.
Set deadlines and partitions to keep yourself from falling into bad habits. Deadlines help us enforce a decision that we'd otherwise procrastinate on.
Use labels to recognize disturbing (or encouraging) patterns.

Final summary
When you make a decision, follow the WRAP-process: Widen your Options, Reality-test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong.
Profile Image for Aaron.
Author 15 books125 followers
August 15, 2017
As far as the content and concept is concerned, I'd give this a 5/5. The WRAP process is well-thought out, and explained well. I'd give a 3/5 for length, simply because I don't think this book needed to be as long as it is. (So we'll split the difference and go with a 4/5).
Profile Image for Sendhilkumar Alalasundaram.
56 reviews11 followers
August 21, 2021
Informative. Persuasive. Memorable.

Decision making is individualistic, and can go haywire owing to a multitude of factors. The tactical processes mentioned in book can help eliminate bias, emotional reasoning and over-committment to a bad decision.
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