Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

DecisiveDecisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Crown Business. 336 pages. 2013. Audiobook read by Kaleo Griffith
*** ½

The latest book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath (Switch, Made to Stick), aims to help us make better decisions in life and work, as we tend not to be very good with this. I recently completed reading and discussing the book in a leadership book club and we tried to apply the process and principles taught in the book to our situations.

The authors tell us that there are “four villains of decision making”. They are:

  1. Narrow framing. Don’t use “Pros” and Cons” (Ben Franklin) when making decisions. That limits the focus too much.
  2. Confirmation bias. Do you agree that it is the single biggest problem in business?
  3. Short-term emotion (“What would our successors do?”). We need perspective.
  4. Overconfidence.

The authors introduce us to the WRAP model, which is:

Widen Your Options
Reality-Test Your Assumptions
Attain Distance Before Deciding
Prepare to be Wrong

The steps in the model are sequential and the more we use the process, the better we will get at it, with this eventually becoming second nature.

Below are notes that I compiled from the book and our book club discussions. I hope they are helpful to you:

  • An opportunity cost is what we give up when we make a decision. Do you consider opportunity costs when you make decisions?
  • Do you see opportunities in your work or life for multi-tracking? (considering several options simultaneously)
  • To break out of a narrow frame, we need options. Need to find someone else who has solved our problem. We should not forget to look inside our own organizations.
  • Inside view – draws from information in the spotlight as we make a decision. (Single person’s impression)
  • Outside view – ignores particulars, and analyzes the larger class it is a part of. (trusts Trip Advisor reviews)
  • We take the inside view by default. We can correct bias by zooming out (outside view) and zooming in (close-in).
  • Ooch – construct small experiments to test one’s hypotheses.
  • Suzy Welch’s “10-10-10” idea. Think about decisions in three timeframes. How will we feel about it 10 minutes, 10 months from now, 10 years from now? We need to get some distance from our decisions.
  • Mere Exposure Principle – People develop a preference for things that are more familiar. Merely being exposed to something makes us view it as more positive.
  • We need to distance ourselves from short-term emotion.
  • Book-ending the future is a technique for getting closer to the bulls’ eye by setting low and high parameters.
  • Prospective hindsight is a technique for evaluating the effect a likely future event may have upon the organization. Results may be achieved by comparing the probable reasons why an event may take place with the reasons why it did take place, by assuming that the event has already occurred.
  • Pre-mortem. Imagines a future death of a project and asks ‘what killed it”?
  • Bundle our decisions with trip wires. The goal of a trip wire is to jolt us awake and warn us that we have decisions to make. Trip wires tell us when to jump. They assure us it’s time to make a decision.
  • Auto-pilot can keep us from making decisions. Can keep us from denying reality.
  • Setting deadlines (artificially setting trip wires) can be helpful. Deadlines focus us on a choice.
  • A tripwire is a boundary beyond which you won’t go before checking in and correcting course.
  • Decisions made by groups have an additional burden – they must be seen as fair. “Bargaining” – horse-trading until all sides can live with the choice – makes for good decisions that will be seen as fair.
  • Procedural justice is critical in determining how people feel about a decision. We should make sure people are able to perceive that the process is just.

The authors used many helpful illustrations to help the reader understand the concepts behind the WRAP process. There are helpful summaries of the main points at the end of each chapter. Additional free resources for download can be found at

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