Saturday, May 11, 2013

Being Decisive in 4 Steps

As librarians, decision-making is an ubiquitous part of our profession.  Whether it is systematic review searching on databases, collection purchases, staff hiring, or building renovations, we are constantly synthesizing information to derive at making a decision.  The Heath Brothers (Chip and Dan) have done it again in Decisive with another immaculately written book that is both practical and entertaining to readers.  In this book, the authors reveal that much of human decision-making is hindered by biases and irrationalities.  Not only are we often overconfident, we trust self-fulfilling instincts while getting distracted by short-term emotions.  I certainly enjoyed learning more about how to re-focus my lens when making decisions myself.  So I thought I'd share with you all the Heath's four-step plan to making better decisions:

Widen Your Options - Often we have a narrow frame and do not widen our options which are more plentiful than we think.  When we take out the binary "yes/no" options, we realize we actually have more options than we think.  In fact, find someone who's already solved your problem for an answer.

Reality-Test Your Assumptions - Because we naturally choose self-confirming information, we should discipline ourselves to consider the opposite of our instincts.  While we trust customer reviews on products and services, we usually don't do the same with our personal lives.  We often trust our "insider" view rather than the objective "outside" view enough.  To gather the best information, we should "zoom out and zoom in" (outside view + close up).  Rather than jumping in head-first, we need to make small steps to test-run our theories and instincts.  

Attain Distance Before Deciding - Because we often make decisions based on emotion, we should distance ourselves which could come from an observer's perspective such as asking "What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?"  Another strategy is the 10/10/10 which focuses us to consider future emotions in 10 hours/10 months/ 10 year intervals so that we can detach ourselves from the short-term while looking at the bigger picture in the long run.  

Prepare To Be Wrong - Because the future is not a single scenario or finish-line, we need to bookend our future and prepare for multiple results -- both good and bad.  By preventing the autopilot syndrome which often happens when leaving past decisions unquestioned.  By setting "tripwires," we automatically have triggers that tell us when to be alert even without our consciously knowing it.

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