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How can you make better decisions?

April 22, 2013

You make decisions every day. Some are minor. Some are major. Imagine being able to improve your decision-making.

According to Heath, “60% of executives said bad decisions were as common as good decisions.”

chip heathChip Heath recently released his new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. At Catalyst-West last week, Chip shared “How to Make Better Choices” based on his research.

So how do you make good decisions? Chip Heath said, “Most people in culture say, ‘Trust your gut’.” 

Heath said you should only “trust your gut” when:

1. You have a decade of experience (10,000 hours)
2. Feedback is quick and clear.

So, why do you make bad decisions? According to Heath, there are four villains in the typical decision making process:

1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options.
2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information.
3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one.
4. Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold.

How can we do better?

Heath suggests a tweak in the typical decision making process:

1. Widen your options – when you encounter a choice.

2. Reality-test your assumptions – when you analyze your options.

3. Attain some distance – before you make a choice.

4. Prepare to be wrong – then you live with it.

Chip spent the rest of the time discussing how to Widen your options & how to Attain Distance before deciding:

1. How do you widen your options?

Avoid “whether or not” (yes or no) questions for decisions.

More options increase odds of making successful decision. “Thumbs up or down” decisions (yes or no) decrease odds of success.

When you hear someone say, “I’m trying to decide ‘whether or not’ I should . . .”, a siren should go off in your head because they’re likely missing good options.

Ask “what would you do if you couldn’t do either option in your “whether or not” scenario?

Research suggest adding 1 additional option results in a decision being 6X more likely to be successful according to Heath

2. Attain distance 

Do you want your epitaph to say, “He always returned emails promptly?”

How do you gain a bigger perspective? According to Heath, here are four ways:

a. Sleep on it

b. Consider 10/10/10 (Think of implications 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years from now)

c. Add social distance

For personal decisions ask yourself, “What would your friend do?”

For business decisions ask yourself, “What would your successor do?”

d. Seek a Divine perspective

We will never be perfect but we can do better and be bolder.

“Making decisions is like driving: Most of the times it’s straight but it’s the turns that determine where we end up.”

How about you? What tools have you found helpful when making decisions?


From → Leadership, Ministry

  1. Chuck Grace permalink

    I seek the valued opinion of others that have far more experience or training pertaining to the problem at hand. Making medical decisions it is called a “second opinion” but applies to most all major decisions. Just as in business, the first person I consult is my partner. A CEO that does not consult the partners is headed to calamity. My partner is my wife in most cases. Even if the decision seems simple or forthright, it is iportant to make a ‘shared’ decision.

    • Thanks Chuck. Wisdom is found in many counselors! Like you, my wife and I make better decisions together.

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