Decisive Book Summary By Chip and Dan Heath

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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work is a book that will give you the advice and tools you need to make more purposeful decisions.

It covers topics like what leads us to making quick, ill-informed decisions, how our short-term emotions can lead us astray, and the pitfalls of being overconfident when it comes to predicting the future.

With an insightful look at decision-making methods and practical advice on avoiding bad choices, this book will help you make better decisions in life and work.

Decisive Book

Book Name: Decisive (How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work)

Author(s): Chip and Dan Heath

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 22 Minutes

Categories: Motivation & Inspiration

Author Bio

The Decisive Book Summary is authored by two well-known individuals in the academic world.

Dan Heath is a Senior Fellow at Duke University, where he supports social entrepreneurs.

Chip Heath, on the other hand, is a Professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Together, their work has resulted in several international bestsellers including Switch and Made to Stick.

These great minds have put their collective brilliance together to bring you Decisive; a summary that can give you new insights into decision making approaches and strategies.

Decisive: How We Can Overcome Our Bias And Mental Shortcuts To Make Better Choices

Mental Shortcuts

We all know how difficult it can be to make decisions.

But with Decisive, brothers Chip and Dan Heath explain to us exactly how we can take charge of our decision-making process and make sound choices in any situation.

The book explains how we often think too narrowly and let bias, values and emotions influence our decisions, leading to suboptimal outcomes.

It also illustrates the dangers of indecision through the example of Kodak that failed to act on digital photography until it was too late.

Decisive offers us guidance on finding alternative solutions, avoiding biasing our decisions towards what we like and resisting emotion from getting in the way.

It helps us prepare for the results—good or bad—of our choices, so that we can confidently move forward with them.

If you’re looking for help with making difficult decisions, then Decisive is definitely worth checking out.

Stop Focusing On Binary Choices And Discover Unseen Alternatives In Decision-Making

When you get stuck making a decision, don’t be afraid to see what the full array of options available to you really look like.

Too often, we simply limit ourselves to two basic choices and forget that other viable alternatives might exist.

Take teens as an example: they often just ask themselves whether they should or shouldn’t do something – such as whether they should smoke cigarettes or not, or if they should go to a party or not.

However, these decisions don’t actually consider alternatives among all the potential options; they range from one option alone being either voted for or against.

For instance, it’s much easier for a teen to decide if they want to go to the party when they realize that there are also other options available – like going out to the movies or watching a football game.

Using Multitracking To Improve Decision-Making: The Benefits Of Trying Out Several Options At Once

When you’re problem-solving, don’t limit yourself to just a single idea.

Multitracking – or actively attempting several different options simultaneously – is actually the smarter way to get better results.

For instance, one study compared two groups of graphic designers assigned with creating a banner advertisement for an online magazine.

The first group was asked to create one ad at a time, while the second worked on three ads at once and then narrowed down their choices based on direct feedback.

The results showed that the second group’s ads performed much better in ratings by editors, independent ad execs and real-world tests!

That’s because they had more options available to them which allowed them to combine the elements from each round that received positive feedback into a single ad design.

Not only does multitracking lead to higher quality work, but it also speeds up the decision-making process since it allows for more flexibility and having a Plan B available if Plan A fails.

Just be aware of choice overload as too many options can paralyse your decision-making; it’s best to focus on no more than 6 options.

Lessons From The Greats: Exploring What Other People Are Doing Can Help Us Find Solutions To Our Problems

Solutions To Our Problems

When you are facing a problem and unsure of what to do, it’s important to remember that you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.

Instead, it’s sometimes best to look at how someone else solved the same issue.

Take Sam Walton, for instance.

Back in 1954, he had found success with his variety stores but wanted to find a more efficient way of checking out customers.

While on a 12 hour bus ride he spotted something new – a checkout line in which customers followed one line instead of separating into different counters for groceries, kitchen supplies etc.

He immediately implemented this idea in his stores and from then on kept an eye on what his competitors were doing, admitting that “almost everything he’d ever done had been copied from someone else”.

Another great way of solving problems innovatively is by viewing them abstractly force yourself to think about more general matters like speed or texture rather than getting stuck on the details of your own issue.

Fonsie Fairhurst managed to use this technique when creating Speedo Fast Skin swimsuits – by looking into anything that moves quickly such as sharks and torpedoes she was able to create fabric based on their surface textures and body shapes which reduced drag and supported better coverage of swimmers’ bodies, giving them an unprecedented competitive advantage in2010 when they fabric was ultimately banned.

Question Your Decisions And Look At How They Have Worked Out For Others To Make The Right Choices

When it comes to making good decisions, we all know that it’s best to check our bias at the door and make a decision based on objective facts.

Unfortunately though, our own likes and dislikes can often seep into this process without us realizing.

Fortunately though, there are some strategies we can use shake off the influence of our personal preferences when making decisions.

One effective strategy is to play devil’s advocate and think about what would have to be true in order to argue that your least favorite option – or just any other option – might turn out to be the best choice.

This way, you’re not arguing for or against personal preferences, but instead analyzing the logical constraints of the options and allowing for disagreement without generating antagonism.

Another great tool to avoid being swayed by your own bias is to ask questions that will help surface opposing information.

For example, if you’re considering accepting a job at a big law firm, ask about how often their lawyers have dinner at home, how many attorneys have been hired in the past 5 years, or how many secretaries their CEO has had in recent years – just things like this will help ensure that you don’t get too attached to any one option before considering all angles of your decision.

In conclusion, if you want to make sure that your decisions aren’t influenced by bias or personal preferences, consider playing devil’s advocate and asking disconfirming questions so you can see opposing information on the table as well.

Learn To Leverage The Power Of The Outside View When Making Decisions

When it comes to making decisions, it always helps to take an outside perspective.

That means looking at what other people in a similar situation have done and considering the data available about how these scenarios usually turn out.

For example, if Jack was thinking about starting a Thai restaurant on 4th Street based on his “inside view” of the situation, he should also look into the base rates that show that 60 percent of restaurants fail within three years of opening to get an alternative “outside view”.

This doesn’t necessarily mean he shouldn’t go ahead with the business – but it’s something to consider.

In addition, instead of asking experts for predictions when seeking advice on specific situations, it’s better to ask indicative questions that provide base rates.

A lawyer should be asked “How many cases like mine were settled before going to trial?” rather than “Will this case get settled before going to trial?”

Ooching: Testing Ideas On A Small Scale For Better Decision-Making


Rather than make a plan, it’s often better to try a small experiment to see if your idea works.

This process, known as “ooching,” is a great way to test something on a smaller scale and get real feedback.

For example, let’s say someone is considering going to law school but isn’t sure it’s the right profession for them.

Rather than just commit to enrolling based on their belief that it would be suitable for them, they could first take on an internship at a local law firm.

That way, they can get a sense of what the job entails and decide whether or not it suits them before making any big commitments.

Of course there are times when we can’t do this kind of testing and have to commit immediately.

For instance, if you join a football team you have an obligation to your teammates.

Similarly, you wouldn’t want to go all the way through university only to find out that the subject material isn’t interesting after all.

In those cases its important that you get accurate information ahead of time so that you know what its like before committing fully.

Making Smart Decisions Through Emotional Distance And The Observer’S Perspective

When faced with a difficult decision, it’s important to consider its long-term consequences.

Many of us get caught up in the moment and make decisions based on our current emotions, which are often not in our best interest in the long run.

One way to view your choice differently is to shift your focus to the future.

Ask yourself how you would feel about your decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now.

This technique, called “10/10/10” is an excellent tool for equalizing the influence of short-term emotions such as fear or excitement so that you can make the best decision possible.

Another way to gain perspective on your decision is shifting into an observer’s point of view: what would you recommend that your best friend should do? It’s easier to think more rationally when it comes to someone else’s dilemma rather than our own because we don’t experience as much emotional attachment.

By looking at a decision objectively from a distance, you can determine factors that may otherwise go overlooked while you’re stuck in the thick of the moment.

Commit To Your Core Priorities And Take Time To Invest In What Matters Most

We all make decisions every day, but it can be difficult when our values and goals conflict with one another.

In this case, it’s best to identify each of your core priorities in order to make a decision that is right for you.

It can help to ask yourself which long-term emotional values, goals or aspirations are most important to you.

Do you need more money and time away from work in order to go on holiday with your family and see your friends? Or do you want something that will give you more responsibility and better pay but longer hours? It might be easier said than done, as our lives are often full of competing demands, but by taking the time to assess what matters most deeply to you – such as your family – it should become clearer which priority should be given preference.

Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, it’s important that you take steps to act your core priorities into reality.

To do this effectively requires carving out proper pockets of dedicated time for those activities based on each of these prioritized objectives.

For instance, if exercise is one of the important things for self- development for you, then set aside time in your schedule regularly so that ensuring sufficient leisure activities doesn’t come at the cost of neglecting work or vice versa.

Prepare For The Worst, But Also Plan For Success: Adding A Safety Factor In Your Scheduling Will Help You Reach Your Goals

Reach Your Goals

When it comes to making decisions, it’s important to think of the future not as a single point, but rather as a range of possibilities.

To better prepare yourself for any potential outcomes that come your way, consider both the worst and best possible outcomes.

This will allow you to adjust expectations depending on the situation at hand, and react accordingly if reality moves closer to the worst outcome.

Using prospective hindsight to evaluate facts better than possibilities can also be a great tool in preparing for whatever lies ahead.

For example, ask yourself ‘It is one year from now and we’ve failed – why?’ instead of ‘What could happen that would lead to failure?’, allowing you to double-down and make informed decisions based on the best use of resources available.

Safety precautions should also be implemented when trying to anticipate consequences of your decisions.

Take lessons from engineers who design elevators; their cables are eleven times stronger than necessary for simple functioning!

As humans tend to have an overconfidence in even our own expertise, it’s wise to add a safety factor into our predictions.

So when scheduling projects, or making any important decision really, think about what’s needed in terms of meeting deadlines while factoring in safety elements against activity completion duration and you’ll be well equipped with methods ready to tackle any outcome resulting from said project or decision!

Understanding The Power Of Tripwires To Interrupt Autopilot Behavior

When making decisions, it is important to be aware of our behavior and make conscious choices.

By utilizing tripwires, we can recognize when behave in autopilot and shift to manual control.

One way that companies can help their employees make conscious decisions is by setting tripwires such as offering them money to quit if they feel unmotivated.

Zappos does just that — by paying their staff $4,000 for leaving the company if they don’t find themselves satisfied with their job anymore.

Another type of tripwire that can be implemented is deadlines, which push us to make decisions before it’s too late.

A study showed that 66% of college students collected the money they were offered when given a five-day deadline, while only 25% did so when not given a timeline to complete the task at hand.

Partitions also serve as effective tripwires; instead of investing huge sums all at once, smaller amounts are distributed over time, prompting us to pay attention and enforce a decision.

Wrap Up

The Decisive Book Summary boils down to a key takeaway: when making decisions, utilize the WRAP-process.

This involves widening your options, reality-testing your assumptions, attaining distance and preparing for the worst possible outcome.

Actionable ideas from the book suggest setting concrete times for making decisions and finding multiple alternatives before deciding on one.

These tools help you to become more knowledgeable about what is best for you in any given situation.

All in all, The Decisive Book Summary provides useful information that can be used to make better decisions and understand yourself better.

It teaches that having a good process will benefit both small and big decision-making processes alike.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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