How To Make a Decision

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson discussing clue while seated

I loved this Blinkist summary from How To Decide by Annie Duke.

The six-step method helps us reduce bias and make more informed decisions.

You’ve just come back to your waterfront Miami apartment to find a job offer in your inbox. It’s your dream job at a company you never thought you’d get to work at. But there’s one catch: it’s in Boston, Massachusetts. Everything seemed great except that you hate the cold, and you’ve spent the better part of your adult life avoiding New England weather at all costs. 

Will you remain in Miami, or will you ship out to Boston? It seems cruel to be burdened with such a major life decision, but if you break it down into six manageable steps, you can arrive at a choice that best suits your values and goals. 

The key message here is: The six-step method helps us reduce bias and make more informed decisions. 

First, choose a consideration and come up with a realistic selection of potential outcomes. Consideration one is to take the job. Some potential outcomes are that you find out you’re okay with winter. Or you realize you love Boston, but not the job. Or you hold fast to the idea that winter makes it unbearable. These are all realistic outcomes.

Second, identify each outcome’s positive and negative payoffs – the upsides and downsides of a particular outcome. These are based on your values and goals, so they are unique to you. Most outcomes are a mixture of both upsides and downsides. For instance, you might still hate the cold, but you find the job fulfilling. Or you realize you’re fond of fashionable winter gear, though you don’t much like that you have to wear it.

Third, roughly gauge how likely each outcome is. Is it inevitable? What have the recent winters in Boston been like – has there really been that much snow? Do most employees at the company like working there, or is there frequent turnover?

Fourth, compare the probability of each outcome you like with those you dislike. 

Fifth, repeat the first four steps for all other considerations.

And sixth, compare the preferences, payoffs, and probabilities of each option before reaching your final decision. 

While we don’t have control over luck, we do have control over what we know. So, the more accurate information we use for an educated guess, the stronger the decision process.

How To Decide by Annie DukeBlinkist Summary
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