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Decisive Summary

Here’s the Decisive summary. The full title of the book is Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Learn how to make better decisions by counteracting your mental biases.


Decisive authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath explain how to counteract our mental biases for us to make better decisions. They base their book from an exhaustive study of psychology research.

They also explain the key villains in our decision making. They also explain that being decisive is not just about making the perfect decisions. It’s also about considering the right things and using a smart process.

About the Authors

Chip Heath has experience consulting with Gap, Google, American Heart Association, and other organizations. He also teaches at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He specializes in business strategy and organizations.

Dan Heath has an MBA from Harvard Business School. He founded Change Academy that helps social sector leaders make a greater impact. He is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center.

Main takeaways: Decisive Summary

Let us discuss the key takeaways from their book:

  1. We often define our choices narrowly.
  2. Explore more options.
  3. Prepare to be wrong.

We often define our choices narrowly

This happens many times. For example you’re thinking of breaking up with your girlfriend. The common question inside everyone’s head is “Should I break up or not?”

The choices are often defined too narrowly. Whether we do this or not is the default. However, there is still one more question to consider. “How will I improve our relationship?”

You can also ask yourself “What are the ways to make our relationship better?” It also applies to our work or business. Common question is “Should I quit or not?” The often neglected question is “How will I enjoy this job more?” or “How can I make myself free from my business?”

Asking those simple questions can generate more useful answers. They can also lead to more helpful and insightful questions. The key here is that when you’re feeling indecisive, it could mean that we don’t have the right options yet.

Explore more options

We mentioned it earlier. If we can’t decide, the reason could be is that we don’t have the right option yet. We haven’t explored enough. We don’t know yet the options that can lead us to the right decision.

We often think of “OR” scenarios. We think whether we should stay at our job or start a business. We often forget that we can also think in “AND” scenarios. We can both stay at our job and start a business.

We often confine ourselves to 2 options. We feel that we should choose one and let go of the other. What if there is a way to do both. What if there’s a way to avoid sacrifice.

Exploring more options often applies to decisions that require more than 5 minutes to make. Exploring more options apply to key business decisions, relationships, and careers.

Prepare to be wrong

We don’t have all the information whenever we give a decision. Why do we make decisions in the first place? Because we think it will lead to a good or better future.

However, we can’t predict the future. There’s much uncertainty. After we make a decision, the conditions might change while going for the outcome. The decisions might be wrong. They could lead to worse results.

Preparing to be wrong actually helps us make better decisions. How? We can prepare for disasters. We can prevent errors down the road. We can somehow fool proof our decisions.

Preparing to be wrong is similar to negative visualization. We imagine negative scenarios. Then we can make some preparations to minimize the loss and reduce the risk.

Prepare to be wrong can also be applied during meetings. Before you decide, you ask other people’s feedback. Some will be fast to object your decision. They will give negative feedback. They will try to convince you that you’re wrong.

But it will actually benefit you. You will see the flaws of your decision. Keep in mind that we have confirmation bias at work. We only accept the information that support or confirm our decision. If you get many feedback and explore other options, you somehow lose the attachment from your original decision.

That improves the odds of making a better decision whether in your work or personal life. You have more insights and you got feedback from other people. You also know the negative things that might happen. You can then prepare for those before making your decision.

You’ve learned that we should explore more options and prepare to be wrong. Aside from those, you can also learn the following from the Decisive book:

  • What is prevention vs promotion focus
  • Why you should contemplate about considering the opposite
  • Why tripwires encourage risk taking while still remaining safe
  • Why you should create a “stop-doing list”
  • How to make better decisions for your organization

My personal takeaways

I’ve learned that being decisive is not just about making the perfect decision every time. It’s impossible. We all make mistakes. We’re also not certain about the future. The decision seems right today but tomorrow it could lead to bad outcomes.

I’ve also learned that “OR” decision-making is not the only available thing out there. I can actually do both without much sacrifice. This way I can explore another option that better suits my needs.

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