When faced with a decision,we generally consideronlythe most obvious and visible information, according to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Decisive: How To Make Better Choices in Life and Work.”
However, that’s rarely all we need to make a good decision, because we end up missing important facts outside of our immediate view.
In their book, the Heath brothers share the “four villains of decision making,” which often mislead us in our choices:
- Narrow framing causes you to focus so much on your immediate choices that you miss other options.
- Confirmation bias leads you to seek out information that will confirm what you already believe.
- Short-term emotion blinds you from making the right choice, even if it should be completely obvious.
- Overconfidence makes you believe you know more than you actually do.
Fortunately, the Heath brothers also share some solutions to these problems. Here are their 14 best strategies for making wiser decisions in any situation.
Avoid narrow framing by widening your options:
1. Consider the opportunity cost. When you are shopping, you generally consider only the choices of “buy” or “don’t buy.” You don’t realise that the money saved can be applied to another purchase. For example, if you don’t buy a television, you can use the money to go on vacation. This additional option will help you consider whether you can derive more satisfaction from other options.
2. Run the vanishing options test. Ask yourself what else you could do if you didn’t choose any of your current options. If you are deciding whether to fire or keep an underperforming employee, for instance, imagine that both options are not viable. Then, you would be forced to come up with alternative solutions, such as moving them to a new department or talking with them to figure out what’s wrong.
3. Multitrack. Consider more than one option simultaneously. Some companies give the same assignment to different teams, so they can consider the solution from new perspectives. Try to think in terms of this AND that, instead of this OR that. For example, rather than thinking just about how to limit stress, you might also consider how to boost happiness.
4. Find someone else who’s solved your problems. The Heath brothers pose the question, “Why generate your own ideas when you can sample the world’s buffet of options?” Look at best practices that other people have used. For example, if you own a struggling grocery store, look at how other grocery stores are performing and the ways they have solved similar problems.
5. Use analogies to help you think outside the box. In their book, the Heath brothers give the example of a designer who wanted to design a speedy swimsuit. She decided to analyse other things that move fast, such as sharks and torpedoes, which gave her a new source of inspiration.
Avoid confirmation bias by reality testing your assumptions:
6. Consider the opposite
of what you believe. Actively seek disagreement by asking disconfirming questions. The Heath brothers use the example of iPod buyers, saying they should ask themselves what problems the iPod has before making their decision based on its benefits.
7. Zoom out. Look for an outside perspective on your specific situation. Read reviews, data, and advice from other people who have made similar decisions. If you are a restaurant owner, you can’t rely on the belief your restaurant will be a big hit. Instead, you should analyse your restaurant within the pool of other restaurants you are competing against.
8. Use the “ooch technique.” This involves running small experiments to test theories before jumping in headfirst. For example, before choosing your future career path, volunteer as an intern in the field to get a feel for how you like it.
Avoid short-term emotion by attaining distance before deciding:
9. Use the 10/10/10 technique. Imagine how you will feel about a decision in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. This will help you consider future emotions as much as present emotions. For example, if you want to send an angry email, you probably won’t feel too good 10 minutes after.
10. Use the best-friend technique. Consider your decision from an observer’s perspective and highlight what’s important. Ask yourself what you would tell your best friend if they were in the same situation as you.
11. Honour your core priorities. When you have trouble making a decision, it usually means you are struggling to figure out what you desire in the long term. The Heath brothers say, “We must go on the offence against lesser priorities.” They cite the example of Jim Collins’ “stop-doing list,” which is a list he makes of what he is willing to give up to have more time for his priorities.
Avoid overconfidence by preparing to be wrong:
12. Bookend the future. Plan for a range of outcomes from very bad to very good. Keep in mind that the future is not a “point,” but rather a spectrum of options, so there are many possibilities of what could happen.
13. Think in terms of pre-mortems and pre-parades. Use pre-mortems by thinking about how a decision might fail and how to minimize the harm. On the other hand, you should also consider pre-parades, or the potential consequences of being successful. For example, if your business does well, you’ll need to make sure you have enough supply to meet consumer demand.
14. Set tripwires. These are triggers to jolt you out of your routine and remind you to evaluate your decision in the future. For example, you should set a date where you will be held accountable for what you predict, so that you can reconsider your decision if you’re failing to meet your goals.
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