Decisive by Chip & Dan Heath: Summary and Notes

Decisive - book

“A well-designed life is a life that makes sense. It’s a life in which who you are, what you believe, and what you do all line up together. When you have a well-designed life and someone asks you, “How’s it going?,” you have an answer. You can tell that person that your life is going well, and you can tell how and why.”

Rating: 8/10

Related Books: SwitchMade To StickUp StreamThinking In Bets

Print Ebook Audiobook

Get all my book summaries here


Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath: Short Summary

In Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath share tips and tricks on how we can make better decisions. The book starts by noting how terrible decision-makers we are but if we could be conscious of our decision-making processes, we might start making better ones. An excellent book on decision-making. I highly recommend it.

The Case for Better Decision-Making

Humans are generally bad decision-makers. 44% of lawyers would not recommend the profession to someone else. More than half of teachers quit their jobs within four years. 83% of corporate mergers fail to create any value for shareholders.

In other words, we consistently make bad decisions.

If we want to make better decisions, we must learn how biases work and how to fight them.

The normal state of the mind is that we have intuitive feelings about everything that comes our way.

The spotlight effect: Giving too much weight to information that is right in front of us while failing to consider other sources of information

It is hard to correct biases in our mental processes by just being aware of them. Learning that you are shortsighted doesn’t make you see well.

The Four Villains of Decision Making

The four villains of decision making:

  • Narrow framing. This makes you miss options
  • Confirmation bias. Confirmation bias acts to make us gather self-serving information
  • Short-term emotion. Short-term emotion will have you making hasty decisions
  • Overconfidence.  You make wild optimistic guesses about the future

Overcoming the four villains of decision making using the WRAP model:

  1. Widen your options.  Having more options gives you more things to consider, and you will overcome the tendency for narrow framing
  2. Reality test your assumptions.  Get outside your head and test your ideas in the real world
  3. Attain distance before deciding. Overcome short-term emotion by attaining distance
  4. Prepare to be wrong. Prepare for an uncertain future

Avoid the Narrow Frame

decisive book - avoid the narrow frame

When we are exposed to even a small hint of the alternative, we make better decisions.

“Our lack of attention to opportunity costs is so common, in fact, that it can be shocking when someone acknowledges them.”

The Vanishing Options Test: When people are left without options they are forced to act.

When businesses consider multiple alternatives, it undercuts politics. Because with more options, people get less invested in them.

The two contrasting mindsets affecting your motivation are Prevention focus and promotion focus.

Prevention focus: Orients us towards avoiding negative outcomes

Promotion focus: Orients us towards pursuing positive outcomes

When faced with a tough decision push for “this AND that” rather than “this OR that”.

Another way to break out of the narrow option is to find someone else who has already solved the problem.

Consider the Opposite

“To make good decisions, CEOs need the courage to seek out disagreement.”

We are more likely to look for information that confirms our already formed opinions. This happens more often in politics and in religion.

“Sometimes we think we’re gathering information when we’re actually fishing for support.”

Ask disconfirming questions to gather more trustworthy information.

Zoom Out, Zoom In

Distrust the inside view and take the outside view. Get out of your own head and consult the base rates.

“When we assess our choices, we’ll take the inside view by default. We’ll consider the information in the spotlight and use it to form quick impressions.”

By zooming in and out, it gives us a more realistic perspective of our choices.

Ooching: A way to test-reality your perceptions by implementing solutions and seeing how they perform in the real-world.

“To ooch is to ask Why predict something we can test? Why guess when we can know?”

Overcome Short-Term Emotion

People are likely to make their worst choices when they are gripped by short-term emotion. The good thing is that emotion fades and that’s why it is advisable to act when the emotion has faded away.

The 10/10/10 tool: Think of your decisions in three different time frames: How will you feel about it 10 minutes from now, how about 10 months? How about 10 years from now?

By using the three frames, we can get some distance from the problem.

Humans have a preference for things that are familiar.

If you want to break a decision logjam, ask yourself, “What would I tell my best friend?” Often, you will find the best advice this way.

Honor Your Core Priorities

decisive book - Honor Your Core Priorities

Unless forced, people rarely establish their priorities.

Decisions are hard to make when your core priorities are in conflict. When considering your core priorities, honor the emotions that matter.

If you enshrine your core priorities, you will make it easier to resolve your present and future dilemmas.

To create space for your core priorities, you must go on the offense against lesser priorities.

 “When we think about the extremes, we stretch our sense of what’s possible”

When we anticipate problems, we are better able to cope with them.

Set a Tripwire

The natural tendency in life is to slip into autopilot.

A tripwire is a signal that would snap us awake at the right moment compelling us to reconsider a decision or to make a new one.

When you get stuck in autopilots, consider deadlines or partitions. You need some tactics to make yourself accountable for your decision.

For example:

When the salary is divided into 10 envelopes instead of 1, individuals tend to save more. Spending each envelope is an individual decision, making them think twice before making a big purchase.

Trusting the Process

Decisions that are made by a group have the additional burden of fairness.

To improve the sense of fairness in decision-making, use procedural justice.