Decisive, by Chip and Dan Heath

decisiveWe make decisions every day. Big ones, little ones. Ones for work, ones for personal life. Some for both.

We always want to make good decisions, and we ususally think that we do. Sometimes we get stuck. That’s when decisions preoccupy our thoughts and create stress – even though they often represent an exciting opportunity of some sort. After all, decisions come at the crossroads. The point where we elect one thing over alternatives, make a commitment, and move on.

Chip and Dan Heath use social science to articulate the many challenges of decision making. Decisions by humans are fraught with problems – confirmation bias, disproportionate weighting of short-term emotions, overconfidence in how the future will unfold, and a narrow frame that eliminates valid options from view. In Decisive, How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, the Heath brothers articulate these through interesting stories and explain them through the latest research in human behavior. That’s interesting, but not super helpful.

What’s better is that the authors lead you through various ways to identify these natural shortcomings and offset them. Specific techniques are provided. Most are simple and straight-forward, making the application of the lessons in the book very approachable. Even better, each chapter is summarized onto a single page for easy reference. That single page is quite effective since most of the lessons are based on memorable stories and a little prompting helps to easily recall moral of the tale.

The entire book is also encapsulated in a simple framework, making it easy to organize all of the ideas in the book. This framework also outlines the process you can use to apply the learnings in the book to your own decisions. You can even dig in deeper through the “clinics” at the end of the book and in various supplemental material available for download – overviews, workbooks, podcasts. Heck, there’s even guidance for running a book club discussion.

The Heath brothers do great work, and this is no exception. The book is solidly researched, well-presented, interesting, and useful. If you want to make better decisions, you’ve got to read this book. I highly recommend it.