What You Didn’t Know About Making Decisions

Last week, I had the opportunity to see Dan Heath (of Chip and Dan Heath, Made to Stick fame). He was in Cleveland to talk about his newest book Decisive.  I had received an invitation from a client and snapped up the chance to see one of my favorite authors and get a free copy of the book!iStock_000006814958XSmall

Decisions don’t have to be complicated

Dan started out his presentation with a discussion on how we complicate most decisions.  While decision trees and other decision-making tools can be valuable, they really don’t account for the complex mix of emotions that we attach to the process.  If you don’t believe me — look back on when you were about 5 and did the “Eenie-meenie-miney-mo” exercise to choose something.  Then think back to when the choice landed on something or someone you didn’t want to choose — then you’d go around with “My mother told me to pick the best one and you are the one….”  Remember that.

Or how about when you were purchasing your last car or home?  Did you start out with a check list or spreadsheet that included all your “must haves” and then end up falling in love with a house or a car that didn’t exactly have everything on your list?

You make decisions like a teenager

One of the more profound moments in Heath’s presentation was when he shared that we really haven’t matured much beyond “teenage” decision-making.  You see, they studies how teenagers make decisions and learned that they really only choose whether or NOT they will do something.  For example; should I go to the football game or not.

And guess what?  Adults do the same thing and so do high-level CEOs.  None of us is immune to our emotionally driven-overly simplified decision making process.  And his new book. Decisive goes into detail about how to not just overcome these weaknesses, but to transform how we approach decision making.

We need a proces.
In life when we want things to work a certain way.  When we need something – we reach for a process and the same is true for decision making.  Unfortunately for us, our processes are often flawed.
In his presentation, Dan Heath mentioned the four villians of decision making — there are actually 120 but these 4 are top
  1. Narrow framing – our tendency to limit our options.  This is the yes/no over-simplification that we all do.
  2. Confirmation bias – we tend to go looking for info that supports what we already know or want to be true.
  3. Short term emotion – in a cloud of anxiety and stress it’s hard to find the big picture.  We all have a tendency to let our short-term emotions drive our decisions.
  4. Over-confidence – not that we’re cocky or an ego trip, but we think we know more about the future and how it’s going to go.

Decisive offers a crazy simple process you can use to overcome decision-making overwhelm

As you might expect, Chip and Dan Heath have come up with a terrific process that you will be able to integrate into your decision-making AND I’m even going to show you how to use your QuestionPro account and put these to use.

Widen your options: Anyone who has ever done any brainstorming can tell you that our brains want to latch on to a single “correct” answer.

This is probably the reason that we default to a yes/no decision making process.  Let’s face it, your brain wants to keep things simple and it’s going to quickly jump to what it thinks is the right answer.  Don’t let your brain drive you — you drive your brain and force it into generating more than a single possibility.

You can overcome this “narrow framing” bias by doing these simple exercises:

  • vanishing options test:  Ask yourself, what if the options you are currently considering were no longer available to you.  What would you do?
  • opportunity cost test:  What is the next best thing that you can do with the time, money, resources that you are considering investing in this current option?

You can involve your audience in generating these options by having discussions on your social media channels.  Consider “gamifying” the challenge and reward your audience for coming up with creative solutions to the problem.  This will increase engagement and it will also increase their loyalty to the project.