(From Dan Heath, author of Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work)
Multitrack your options when you are facing a difficult decision. (Having multiple options leads to better decisions.) When you consider multiple things simultaneously, you’re actually learning a lot about the shape of the problem —the important factors involved—and that knowledge makes you more confident and quicker to decide. Also, when you consider multiple options, it depoliticizes the choice. When you have only one option on the table, two sides fight each other to either pursue it or not. Finally, when you consider multiple options, you have a built-in fallback. So, if you go with Option A and for some reason it fizzles out, you’ve already got Option B. But if Option A was the only thing you considered, you might exert a lot of energy trying to rescue or redeem it, and maybe try to make it work even to the point of absurdity.
Obstacles to making good decisions:
1. mere exposure: which is the idea that we get more comfortable with things that we are more familiar with.
2. loss-aversion: Losses are more painful to us than gains are pleasurable, so throwing away a bad option we are already invested in is much harder than accepting a new option.
3. smart predictions: Answers are in the world, not in our heads. There are no points for predicting from inside a conference room. There are only points for getting it right in the real world.
4. trusting your gut: Instead, get out of your instinct and embrace the philosophy of “leadership by experiment,” which is about giving ideas a chance to prove themselves in the real world.
Don’t make “whether or not” decisions. Considering only one alternative seriously and the decision becomes “do we do that or not?” That’s a problem, because adding incremental options really increases the chance for success.One rule of thumb is to fall in love twice—make sure you have at least two legitimate options before making your choice.
Start planning for the spectrum of possible outcomes. That’s preparing to be wrong. We need to start treating our decisions as predictions that could be right or wrong, rather than as a firm conclusion.
Stop treating decisions as permanent and think of them as provisional. If you’re willing to make that leap, then it means that when you make a decision, you’ve got to think about the circumstances under which you’d reconsider. What could you learn in 6 months that would convince you to go a different direction—or, conversely, convince you that it’s a great decision and worth doubling-down on?
In summary, follow the WRAP strategy:
- Widen your options
- Reality-test your assumptions
- Attain distance before deciding
- Prepare to be wrong.