I was impressed when Chip and Dan Heath wrote their first book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. I was more impressed with their second book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Now comes Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. All three volumes are well written, practical, research-based, and filled with engaging, illustrative stories. All three apply well beyond the business audiences for whom they were written.
Some of this seems like basic psychology but often this gets forgotten in the midst of decision-making. Here are examples:
- Avoid the confirmation bias, seeking out information that supports what we want and ignoring or dismissing information that points to the opposite direction.
- Widen your options. Try to avoid either-or decisions. These limit your mental spotlights to two options and cause you to overlook other possibilities. “Until we are forced to dig up new options, we’re likely to stay fixed on the ones we already have.” Always ask the question, “What’s another possibility?”
- Give yourself some distance before you decide. This lets you back off from short-term emotions or the manipulations of salespeople pushing for a decision.
- Find others who have faced a similar decision. What was their choice and what can they tell you? Try to find experts or unbiased observers who can broaden your thinking.
- When possible, try things out before committing. This helps provide more information. Consider the student who works for a while in a hospital before committing to medical school.
- Don’t rely too much on interviews or on predictions about the future. They are notoriously inaccurate, even coming from experts.
- Honor your core priorities and values. If you overlook these you risk regretting your decisions later.
I read this book while I was making some potentially long term decisions. The authors’ suggestions guided me in ways that led to conclusions that probably are right.
How have you made good (or not so good) decisions? What would you add to the list or tell to the people you counsel, coach or lead? Please comment.