Learning: Deciding Factors

Three tools to help you make better decisions.

Smart people make poor decisions that could be avoided if certain tools are applied, according to researchers Chip and Dan Heath.

In their latest book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, the brothers focus on solutions to “traps” people often encounter en route to a final choice.

Here are two tools included in the Heaths’ four-step WRAP process (widen your options; reality-test your assumptions; attain distance before deciding; and prepare to be wrong):

The Play­list. “Leaders repeatedly make the same types of decisions, so shouldn’t they learn from strategies used by previous leaders [in] those same situations?” says Dan Heath.

“For instance, every manager will struggle at some point with an underperforming employee. Wouldn’t it be great to have a ‘playlist’ with a dozen reliable strategies for handling that situation? [Then] you’ve got concrete proof your organization is getting more diligent about decision-making.”

Ooching. Heath’s favorite decision tool involves “conducting small experiments to assess your options, rather than agonizing about pros and cons,” he says. “For example, countless students enroll in graduate school … even though they’ve never spent a day in a law office, hospital, or pharmacy. … What’s interesting is that [they] spent hours mentally debating whether grad school was the right option. All that mental activity was worthless compared to what they could have learned by ooching: simply spending a week [alongside] a pharmacist or lawyer.

“That’s a mistake lots of us make,” he says. “We get stuck in our own heads, and we miss the opportunity to gather real-world data.”


Kristin Clarke, CAE

By Kristin Clarke, CAE

Kristin Clarke, CAE, is books editor for Associations Now and president of Clarke Association Content. MORE

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