Decide to Decide: A Review of Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

Every day, we make decisions that impact our life. Some have greater consequence than others, but studies show that we are notoriously bad at making them. Whether it is a personal decision or business decision, we have about the same likelihood of making the right decision as the wrong one. We give too much weight to the information in front of us, and we are overconfident in our ability to make the right decision. Our team just finished reading the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. Maybe the most powerful tools in the book are the great questions they share to help you think differently about a decision. I have outlined their four-step WRAP process below and shared some key questions that will definitely improve our decision-making process at CARE for AIDS. All the ideas in this post are a summary or paraphrase of content from Decisive.

Widen your options – Our team tends to form a consensus on decisions too quickly. Either we generate too few options or attach too quickly to a group favorite. Whether it is a hiring, strategy, or tactical decision, we can sometimes limit ourselves to a “whether or not” decision. Should we hire this person or not? Should we do this event or not? With two or more distinct options, the likelihood of making the best decision goes way up. Here are some suggested questions to ask to overcome a narrow frame:

-       Instead of this OR that, could we do this AND that?

-       What are we giving up by making this decision? What else could we do with the same time and money?

-       If we could not choose any of the options we are considering, what else could we choose?

-       Who else is struggling with a similar problem, and what can we learn from them?

Reality-test your assumptions – This helps us not fall prey to confirmation bias, which is to seek out information and ideas that confirm what we already believe about a person or decision. Maybe the most challenging statement in this section was, “If you haven’t encountered any opposition to a decision you are considering, chances are you haven’t looked hard enough.” Here are some questions to reveal any confirmation bias:

-       What would have to be true for this option to be the right answer?

-       What can I reasonably expect to happen if I make this choice?

-       What have others experienced in making a similar decision?

-       Can we conduct small experiments to test our hypothesis?

Attain distance before deciding – Sometimes you need actual time and distance before making a decision, but in some cases, you just need emotional distance. These questions will help you think strategically about the decision, not just emotionally:

-       How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now? 10 months from now? 10 years from now?

-       What would my successor do? (Love this one!)

-       What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?

-       What decision honors our core priorities?

Prepare to be wrong – We are extremely bad at predicting the future but overly confident in our ability to do so. We need to have the appropriate humility to understand and map out all possible outcomes, good and bad, make preparations for or take precautions against those situations. Also, by understanding the range of possible outcomes, we might choose not to make a decision with a small upside and huge downside.

-       If this decision blows up in our face, why did it fail?

-       If this decision is a wild success, how do we ensure that we are ready for it?

-       How likely is potential failure? How severe would the consequences be?

-       How can we set a tripwire to signal us when we need to make a decision or reevaluate past decisions?

I hope these 16 questions will be a great addition to your decision-making arsenal. They won’t make us perfect in choosing the right options, but hopefully, they will increase your batting average and give you the freedom to make bolder, more confident decisions. Let me close with this quote from the book, “Bolder is often the right direction… [the elderly] don’t often regret something they did; they regret the things they didn’t do. They regret not seizing opportunities. They regret hesitating. They regret being indecisive. Being decisive is itself a choice.” So, today, I encourage you to use this process and decide to decide.