Schissel Design

Joann Schissel, Certified Usability Analyst

Decisive: a book review

Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work

By Chip Heath & Dan Heath ©2013
Book review by Joann Schissel, November 2013

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Switch and Made to Stick, have given us yet another gem in their new book, Decisive: How to make better choice in life and work. The book examines solutions for good decision-making and how we can undertake steps to increase the possibility of the best outcomes. The tone of the book appears to be directed toward managers that must make critical decisions, yet it also appeals to individuals making life choices.

The Heath brothers developed an easy-to-remember acronym they label WRAP, which stands for Widen your options, Reality test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong. Each one of these solutions targets a corresponding “villain of decision making.” These decision-making mistakes include narrow framing, confirmation bias, short-term emotion, and overconfidence. Each problem-solution has examples pulled from the author’s research and case studies and presented in an interesting and sometimes humorous style.

I enjoyed this book because I recognized many of the decision flaws I have experienced, both personal and professional. There have been times when I thought that narrowing my options with an either/or scenario was the best thing to do when deciding. The authors argue that this kind of thinking is exactly opposite and what we need to do. Widening our options allow for more possibilities and perhaps produce even better solutions.

Each section in the book challenged my notion of what I previously perceived as my wise decision processes. I’ve always relied on my “gut feeling,” yet this is another subject that was examined and explained. We tend to trust our gut feeling as accurate when this “inside view” may really be produced from faulty impressions, reinforced by what the author’s term “confirmation bias” and “short-term emotion.”

As with all decisions, we have to be prepared to be wrong. Our overconfidence in predicting the future can be tempered with techniques such as “bookending the future” which allows us to imagine best case and worst case scenarios and how to prepare for either, or anywhere in between.

There are many other techniques and examples in this book that have changed the way I think about decisions now. Whenever I have a weighty decision to make I think WRAP. I’d highly recommend this book as a valuable tool in your decision-making process.

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