As much as I enjoy reading, it’s rare for me to know the publication date of a new book. One recent exception was the release of Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive. I was not disappointed.
I became a fan of the Heath brothers after reading Switch, their outstanding book on “how to change things when change is hard.” (Click here for my earlier blog on Switch.) When I first heard about Decisive, the title led me to believe that the book would help wishy-washy people make decisions more quickly. I was wrong. The subtitle captures the essence of the book: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. “Better” is a key word. The Heath’s don’t promise a magic solution that guarantees you’ll make the right decision every time. As they say in the conclusion, “Our decisions will never be perfect, but they can be better. Bolder. Wiser. The right process can steer us toward the right choice.”
The introduction starts with an old standby for decision making, the “pros and cons list.” The Heath’s acknowledge that this approach is “familiar” but then state that it is “profoundly flawed.” This leads into a discussion of the “four villains of decision making.” Of course, they offer a way to combat these villains and capture it in an acronym – WRAP – which is the framework for the rest of the book. WRAP stands for:
- Widen your options
- Reality-test your assumptions
- Attain distance before deciding
- Prepare to be wrong
For each of these principles, Heath and Heath offer specific, practical ideas and techniques that will lead to better decisions. For example, one of the four villains is “narrow framing” which is our tendency to “unduly limit the options we consider.” The Heath’s guide readers through a discussion of how to consider the opportunity cost of a decision and how to use the “vanishing options test” to discover new possibilities.
As in their other books, Chip and Dan Heath demonstrate a remarkable ability to draw from a wide range of research and boil it down into a memorable and actionable form. Each concept is brought to life with one or more stories of decision making at a variety of levels, from corporate acquisitions to romantic relationships. When you put it all together, you have a book that is highly readable and very useful. Don’t agonize over whether to spend the money to buy a copy of Decisive – it’s one decision you definitely won’t regret.
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