Book Review by Taylor Berrett
Making decisions. It’s something that each of us does hundreds or even thousands of times each day, but for all the practice we get we don’t seem to get much better at it. In life, we weigh possible outcomes and find that we’re no closer to coming up with a solution. At work, we get mired in analysis paralysis, fearing that we’ll make the wrong choice and cost our company thousands of dollars or worse.
Enter How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, the latest from bestselling author, Annie Duke. In this straightforward and fluff-free guide, Duke takes us through the science behind decision making and reveals surprising truths about why some people are great decision-makers and others struggle.
But more than just exploring the science, Duke offers an easy-to-follow guide that each of us can implement in our own lives to make better choices— and analyze our past choices more effectively.
Preferences, Pay-Offs, and Probabilities
One of the most effective ways that Duke challenges the way that we think about decisions is by introducing us to the concept of ‘resulting.’ We all do this, whether we know it or not, after nearly every decision we make. We look at the outcome of the decision in order to determine whether the decision was good or bad.
But Duke reveals that there’s a much looser relationship between a decision’s rightness or wrongness and the outcome itself. Outcomes can be affected by a wide range of factors, and a bad outcome doesn’t mean that a decision was a bad one— just as a good outcome doesn’t necessarily mean that the decision that led there was wise. When we engage in ‘resulting,’ we underestimate the value of luck in reaching a certain outcome.
That’s why Duke recommends focusing on preferences, pay-offs, and probabilities, rather than trying to guarantee certain results. The best we can do when deciding is to assess what we want to have happen, what could happen if we’re right or wrong, and what the probabilities of those outcomes can be. Through this process, we can be confident we’ve made the right decision regardless of what the outcome ultimately becomes.
The Bottom Line
Decision-making is a constant part of the human experience, either in the workplace, as parents, in personal lives, in relationships, and even in the simplest choices like whether to eat at one restaurant or another. Finally, someone has come up with an instruction manual for helping us make the best decisions we can with the highest chance of positive outcomes. How to Decide is as refreshingly straightforward as its name suggests, and marks another win for Annie Duke in the world of genuinely transformative personal development writing.
Taylor Berrett is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and host of the podcast Alone in a Room. His other book reviews can be found here.