Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work | Chip Heath & Dan Heath

“Being decisive is itself a choice. Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret. Our decisions will never be perfect, but they can be better. Bolder. Wiser. The right process can steer us toward the right choice. And the right choice, at the right moment, can make all the difference.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

DecisiveOpens in a new tab. by Chip and Dan Heath will take you through the decision-making process and provide advice on how to make better choices in life and work. (Check out the latest price on AmazonOpens in a new tab.)

The WRAP model, a four-step process helps to avoid common biases that are most likely affecting the decisions you make today. When broken down, WRAP stands for:

Widening your options

Reality testing your options

Attaining distance before deciding

Preparing to be wrong

Chip and Dan Heath are American brothers, who jointly co-authored four best-selling books in the New York Times.

Chip works as a professor teaching business strategy at Stanford University. His research focuses on why some ideas succeed in the wider marketplace of ideas and eventually thrive.

Dan works at the CASE Center at Duke University to support social entrepreneurs. He is a former Harvard Business School researcher, now specializing in the design and delivery of corporate training programs.

The Four Villains of Decision Making

Chip and Dan assume there are four main villains that influence the decision-making process. These are simply ‘biases‘ that cloud your judgement and get in the way.

1. Framing your choices too narrowly is all too tempting – to accept only those options that you feel are “realistic” and “workable”.

2. You may have a confirmation bias –as you only notify information that supports your beliefs or preferences and disregard anything that does not do so.

3. You might let the emotions influence your judgement. When facing tricky decisions, we let our emotions get the better of us, agonizing over the same detail, replaying details in our heads and eventually our judgment is so clouded we cannot see clearly.

4. You may be overconfident enough to believe that you can predict the future with certainty. A lot of people are overconfident and assume they know more than they really do. Actually we know less than we think and should always expect a surprise.


So now that we understand what gets in the way of our decision-making process, we need to understand how we can counteract these problems. This is where WRAP Model comes in.

W – Widen your options – intentionally extend the set of choices that you are considering. Consciously try to uncover new ways of achieving goals.

R – Reality-test your assumptions – inject some real world data into your decision making rather than working solely on your assumptions.

A – Attain distance before deciding – change your perspective to ease the pressure you’re feeling and then focus on what really matters.

P – Prepare to be wrong – have a process that you trust but also prepare humbly for the times when you end up being wrong.

W – Widen your options

The first step towards better decision making is to think more thoroughly about the choices you have at your disposal. The three ways of doing it is:

a) Avoid a Narrow Frame

One recommendation for better decision making is to put some effort into exploring more viable alternatives first. More often than not, the possibilities are far more numerous than you might expect at first glance.

To make people aware of and think about alternatives:

Look at opportunity cost – whenever you are facing a decision, you consider what you are giving up by making one of the choices. Question what else could be done in the exact same situation.

Use the vanishing options test – ask if you cannot choose any of the options currently on the table, what else could you do? You have to look beyond what’s already been presented and consider an alternative. This can be a very creative way to force you to look outside the box and look for an option that might even be better.

b) Multitrack

Another great way to broaden your options so that you make a better decision is to consider several options at the same time and see which one develops the best. You are encouraged to explore different angles simultaneously by tracking multiple paths at once and collecting more data. By knowing the different parameters, you are in a better position to make a confident decision.

“When we Widen Our Options, we give ourselves the luxury of a real choice among distinct alternatives. Often the right choice won’t be obvious at first glance, though we may have a hint of a preference. So, to inform our decision, we’ll need to gather more information.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

There are numerous and worthwhile benefits to multitracking several alternatives:

• You discover the true problem of the decision  

• You keep from getting your ego bound up in the problem

• You get away from the paralysis of evaluation

• You have a good workable alternative and option if everything goes horribly wrong

“Multitracking seems to help keep egos under control. When leaders weigh multiple options, they’ve given themselves a built-in fallback plan.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

c) Find Someone Who’s Solved Your Problem

If you can find those who have already answered your problem and team up with them or try to understand from their perspectives, great things could happen. So, how would you collect creative ideas from mentors?

1. Look inside – find the high points of your company.

2. Look outside – see what your competitors do, evaluate them and absorb the best practices of your industry.

3. Look in the distance – the world’s incredible buffet of choices and suggestions is more than likely from the use of the Internet.

“Why generate your own ideas when you can sample the world’s buffet of options?” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

R – Reality-test your assumptions

We all have a confirmation bias; we are only looking for facts that affirm our initial assumptions. You need to counter that to make better choices. To this end:

a) Consider the Opposite

The first way to make reality-test your assumptions is to assume that the opposite is true, too, and to consider the evidence. All you really should do is start asking some doubtful and difficult questions that others will have neglected or ignored.

“Can we force ourselves to consider the opposite of our instincts? Assuming positive intent” spurs us to interpret someone’s actions/words in a more positive light. We can even test our assumptions with a deliberate mistake.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

b) Zoom Out, Zoom In

When you’re actually making an important decision, it’s logical to pursue the opinions of others and to take them into account. The problem is all too often, you totally trust your own intuition rather than allow the average to prevail.

“When our predictions and opinions clash with the universe’s averages, the universe usually wins.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

A good way to overcome this key problem is to zoom in and zoom out – or whether to think both top down and bottom up.

“Zooming out and zooming in gives us a more realistic perspective on our choices. We downplay the overly optimistic pictures we tend to paint inside our minds and instead redirect our attention to the outside world, viewing it in wide-angle and then in close-up.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

When you’re forced to make a choice:

Begin with a top-down perspective–find out what the average response rate of your new concept is and make it your starting point. The top down viewpoint is to keep a big picture firmly in mind.

Only after you’ve got that big picture perspective set, you’ll take a bottom-up perspective–where you get close and personal with what’s being suggested.

c) Ooch

Ooching is another strategy that you need to reality-test your ideas. This is the concept of testing before you commit. If you really wish to improve the level of your decisions, consider practical ways to support small tests of your hypotheses.

If you want to make smart decisions, get out and check your theories first before you make a significant commitment of resources and time. Consider taking your options for a real road test before you commit, and you’ll always manage to make better choices.

A – Attain distance before deciding

It’s all too common to let short-term feelings drive you make choices that are bad over the long run. There are a several options you can choose to stop this:

a) Overcome Short-Term Emotion

Emotions, both profound and apparent, can get the best of you and stop you from making a decision that is in your best long-term interest. Luckily, avoiding this is extremely simple. Try to ask:

What would our successors do?”

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

Or to:

Do a 10/10/10 analysis – which means to ask yourself

– How would you feel about that decision 10 minutes from now?

– How would you feel about it 10 months from now?

– How about 10 years from now?

“We can attain distance by looking at our situation from an observer’s perspective. Adding distance highlights what is most important; it allows us to see the forest, not the trees.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

b) Honor Your Core Priorities

The second approach how to distance yourself from an emotionally driven condition so that you can make a better decision is to reconnect with your core priorities. In practical terms, your core priorities are the long-term emotional principles, ambitions and expectations that you merit most. They portray what kind of person you want to be or the kind of company you want to create.

Even if you’ve made the effort to define your priorities, you’re not automatically going to stay true to them. So Chip and Dan invite everyone to actually concentrate on his core priorities and less time on other worthless things.

P – Prepare to be wrong

Unsurprisingly, it’s understandable to feel overconfident about how your decisions will unfold in the near future. But you have to prepare yourself to be wrong if you want to make better decisions.

“We have to Prepare to Be Wrong about our predictions of the future. We need to stretch our sense of what the future might bring, considering many possibilities, both good and bad. When we think about the extremes, we stretch our sense of what’s possible, and that expanded range better reflects reality.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

a) Bookend the Future

The very first way of making a better decision is to convince yourself that the future is almost never a single point, but rather a number of possibilities. To bookend the future is to come up with your best estimate prediction of how the future will develop and figure out:

1. What your worst possible scenario will be like and find out how to cope with this kind of disaster.

2. What you could do if the idea quite got off the ground and it’s a great success story. Analyze where you’re planning to meet the demand.

3. How you should draw on some safety factor, so that you can plan for the unpredictable.

The whole idea of bookending is that by getting ready for both hardship and achievement, you actually end up improving the chances of making a good decision.

b) Set a Tripwire

Another way of making smarter decisions is to set tripwires to indicate when change is needed. Tripwires can be particularly helpful when change is slow and people are usually operating on autopilot expecting the future to be a continuation of what has happened in the past. Tripwires will make you pay attention and push you to make a hard decision if you use it properly.

c) Trusting the Process

If you make a group decision, it’s important that everyone sees it as being perfectly honest. Using the WRAP process is a useful way to provide it, since it will open up everything. It contributes to a sense of fairness, because it enables everyone to realize how a decision was reached and evaluated.

“Using a process for decision making doesn’t mean that your choices will always be easy, or that they will always turn out brilliantly, but it does mean you can quiet your mind. You can quit asking, “What am I missing?” You can stop the cycle of agonizing.” Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The DecisiveOpens in a new tab. techniques and methods are practical and easy to implement in your life, and the attractive examples used are interesting and likable. Decision making is something we all have to do on a routine basis, and most of us are struggling with it, making this book a perfect read for us all. (Check out the latest price on AmazonOpens in a new tab.)


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