The normal state of your mind is that you have intuitive feelings and opinions about almost everything that comes your way. You like or dislike people long before you know much about them; you trust or distrust strangers without knowing why; you feel that an enterprise is bound to succeed without analyzing it. We are quick to jump to conclusions because we give too much weight to information that’s right in front of us, while failing to consider the informant hats just offstage.
Samuel Johnson once described a second marriage as “the triumph of hope over experience.”
The discipline exhibited by a good decision maker- exploring alternative points of view, recognizing uncertainty, searching for evidence that contradicts their beliefs- can help us in our families and friendships as well.
The four villains of decision making:
1- Narrow Framing: the tendency to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms.
2- Confirmation Bias: to develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that bolsters our belief.
3- Short-term Emotion: when we’ve got a difficult decision to make, our emotions churn
4- Overconfidence: people think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold.
We have too much confidence in our own predictions. We shine our spotlights on information that’s close at hand, and then draw conclusions. The future has an uncanny ability to surprise. We can’t shine a spot light in areas when we don’t know they exist.
You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options.
You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information.
You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one.
Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold.
To make better decisions use the WRAP process:
- Widen your options
- Reality-test your assumptions
- Attain distance before deciding
- Prepare to be wrong
“Is there a better way?” And “What else could we do?” Are critical questions and part of the WRAP framework.
“What are we giving up by making this choice?”
“What else could we do with the same time and money?”
When you need more options but feel stuck, look for someone who has solved your problem.
What would have to be true for this option to be right?
Sometimes we think we’re gathering information when we’re actually fishing for support.
Assume Positive Intent. Imaging that the behavior and words of your colleagues are motivated by good intentions, even when their actions seem objectionable at first glance.
From the perspective of our brains, we are unique. Our challenges and opportunities feel particular to us. From the perspective of the universe, though, we are utterly typical.
Three approaches for fighting the confirmation bias: One, we can make it easier for people to disagree with us. Two, we can ask more questions that are more likely to surface contrary information. Three, we can check ourselves by considering the opposite.
The advice to trust the numbers isn’t geekery; it’s motivated by humility. We can’t lose sight of what the numbers represent: a lot of people like us- people full of passion for their opportunities- spent their time trying something very similar to what we’re contemplating. To ignore their experience isn’t brave and romantic- rather it’s egotistical. It’s saying, we set ourselves apart from everyone else. We’re different. We’re better.
A tool for emotion sorting is the 10/10/10 tool. To use it we think about our decisions on three different time frames: How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now ? How about 10 months from now? How about 10 years from now?
The “mere exposure” principle, which says that people develop a preference for the bugs that are more familiar. Merely being exposed to something makes us view it more positively.
Construal-level theory shows that with more distance we can see more clearly the most important dimension of the issue we’re facing.
Define and enshrine your core priorities. But, people rarely establish their priorities until they’re forced to. Also, establishing priorities is it the same thing as binding yourself to them.
The problem is that urgencies- the lost vivid and immediate circumstances- will always hog our spotlight. Our calendars are the ultimate scoreboard for our priorities. To spend more time on our core priorities necessarily means spending less time on other things.
What do you like most? Least? What would you change if you could?
From this develop two lists. List A contains the mission-critical tasks and List B contains the things that are important but not core. Declare war on List B and find ways to reduce it.
Core priorities should be the long term emotional values, goals, aspirations. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of organization do you want to build?
Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FEMA) has team members identify what souls go wrong at every step of their plans, and for the potential failure they ask two questions. How likely is it? And How severe would the consequences be? Assign a scale from 1 to 10 and multiply them together. The most sever failures get the most attention.
It’s hard to interrupt the autopilot cycle s because, we’ll, that’s the whole point of autopilot. We don’t think about what we’re doing. We drift along in life , floating on the wake of past choices, and it’s easy to forget that we have the ability to change direction.
Sometimes autopilot causes people to neglect opportunities. Other times, autopilot leads people to persist at efforts that seemed doomed. At some point , the virtue of being persistent turns into the vice of denying reality.
It’s easy to forget that most of the deadlines we encounter in life are simply made up. They are artificially created tripwires to force an action or decision.
If you have a colleague pursuing a bad path on autopilot, or if you think they’re being overconfident about their chances of soccers, work with them to set up tripwires- and hold them accountable to what they predicted. These will not be easy conversations to have. No one likes to be reminded of failure. Nor is there any certainty that they will change course; overconfidence is a powerful force. Certainly you have a better chance of reigning in foolish decisions when those decisions are considered than when they are left unexplained.
The elements of procedural justice are straightforward: give people a chance to be heard, to present their case- Listen to what people say. Use accurate information to make the decision, and give people a chance to challenge that information if it’s incorrect. Apply principles consistently across situations. Avoid bias and self-interest. Explain why the decision was made and be candid about relevant risks to concerns.
When you can articulate someone’s point of view better than they can, it’s de facto proof that you are really listening.
The same goes for defending a decision. If you’ve made a decision that has some opposition, those opponents need to know that you haven’t made your decision blindly or naively. Our first instinct, when challenged, is usually to dog in for their and passionately defend our position. Surprisingly, though, sometimes the opposite can be more effective. Sometimes the best way to defend a decision is to point out its flaws.
Short-run emotion makes the status quo seductive. But when researchers ask the elderly what they regret about their lives, they don’t often regret something they did; they regret things they didn’t do. They regret not seizing opportunities. They regret hesitating. They regret being indecisive.
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.