Book Review: Decisive


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath breaks down our decision-making patterns and helps to identity the problems of our narrow points of view. It’s a business book, but it can be read to help someone with their personal life.

Chapter One begins with the title, “The Four Villains of Decision Making,” which includes making decisions based on tradition and political infighting:

“This was the moment of clarity. From the perspective of an outsider, someone not encumbered by the historical legacy and the political infighting, shutting down the memory business was the obvious thing to do (page 14).” The authors explained how Intel’s CEO, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove fought on what direction they should take Intel. At the time, they were deep into the memory business, but microprocessors were where the profit was even though Intel had a legacy in memory. Because of asking themselves, what would a brand new CEO do in this situation who didn’t have the history of the company ingrained in their psyche, Moore and Grove saved Intel.

Decisive breaks the book down in four parts, outlining their business theory: WRAP (Widen your options, Reality-test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong).

Many times we don’t widen our options by expanding the spotlight beyond what people want us to focus on. We need to look at the bigger picture and widening your options does this.

Reality-test your assumptions uses the example of Ooching. Someone in one of the chapters chose to test a product before deciding to invest in it. In this section, Decisive even suggested that people applying for a specific job interview people in that field to determine if the job is the right fit for you and if it met your expectations.

Attain distance before deciding talks about stepping away or sleeping on a decision before agreeing to the job. It used an example of someone who had to decide between a great job and a greater job. The emotional high after the interview impeded her judgement and ultimately she chose to stay with her job because it gave her balance in her life. She had time for all the things she wanted to do in life, but the better paying job would have increased her work hours exponentially.

Prepare to be wrong is preparing for the worst-case scenario. Decisive talked about setting trip wires. Trip wires are like early warning systems.

“All this worrying about traps and contingencies may make tripwires sound overly cautious–the bicycle helmet of decision making. But actually we want to argue the opposite, that tripwires encourage risk taking by letting us carve out a “safe space” for experimentation” (Pg. 240).

Decisive’s chapters bear a summary and repetition style of writing which makes keeping this new knowledge easier. I enjoyed reading this book and gave it five stars.

*Book given by publisher to review.