I must've asked myself at least 100 times this week if we made the right decision.
We are at the tail end of week 2 for moving our factory and I’ve probably burst into tears at least two times a day - three on wednesday if you count the time Matt accidentally dropped a spanner on the roof of the forklift while I was moving it and him and the dust extraction unit. I was concentrating so hard that the ‘bang’ caused me to sob uncontrollably for quite some time. I recovered. Just.
How we make decisions is something I’ve never really thought about and to be honest, don’t spend much time reflecting upon. That was until I started reading Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath this week and all of a sudden I’m starting to analyse every decision I make!
When I think about how I make decisions, (I’m talking about the actual process here rather than the conclusion I reach) I normally throw together a simple pro’s and con’s list and weight up the results. I quite often ‘go with my gut’ as well. This is how most people tend to approach decision making but there are quite a few flaws - four to be precise - that often let us down and stop us from making the best decision.
For starters we tend to frame our problem too narrowly. So often we feel like we only have two options, it's this OR that. There was a study done of how teeenagers made their decisions and something like 29% of them believed that they only ever had two options - to go to the party or not to go to the party. Interesting enough another study was done on corporate America and it turns out that 30% of companies have the same problem and are thinking like teenagers!
Confirmation bias comes in second - we all do it, whether we are conscious of it or not. Seeking out information that confirms what we already believe helps justify our position. With social media being more powerful than ever this is even more evident. God, one google search and your facebook feed get filled up with so many ads based off that one search… It's basically confirmation bias on steroids.
Third and probably my most powerful adversary is short-term emotions. Letting the immediate emotional reaction and response guide the rest of the outcome. This is particularly prevalent in small businesses where perhaps people who aren’t contributing to the team aren’t dismissed because firing someone isn’t a ‘nice’ thing to do.
The fourth and final villain is (not surprisingly) overconfidence. How often do you think you know the answer already so don’t bother to think of another solution? Some people are notorious at knowing the answer before anyone else has had a chance to put their hat in the ring. We all know someone like that! Overconfidence, if misplaced can be extremely dangerous - especially in corporate environments where leaders are adamant they know what's right and subordinates are too shy/scared/worried about getting fired to suggest a new, perhaps even better solution.
Luckily the Heath brothers have put together a framework or process that can help us make better decisions. Like any cool process it comes as an acronym: WRAP
Widen your options.This is essential to fight off narrow framing. There is a great story in the book about a large company that was going under. They had invested a new tech and the old tech was bringing them down. The team was torn. The CEO then asked the question - what would their successors do? If they got fired (which they were about to) what would the next leadership team do? This made the decision to drop the old tech and focus on the new tech the most logical one.
Reality-test your assumptions. Ask around. This is to avoid confirmation bias. Go outside of the normal or expected circles and start asking questions there. So often sparking up a conversation with someone outside of the immediate situation will lead to border discussions and potentially new ideas and directions.
Attain distance before deciding. This is what I need to take onboard. I’m an ‘in the moment’ kind of person and the older I get the more I’m noticing that my better decisions are made after I’ve had time to not think about it - then come back to it.
Preparing to be wrong. This headbuts overconfidence. If you are prepared to be wrong then you’ll feel way more confident trying something new. Failure is such an incredibly important part of learning, the more we embrace the uncertainty, the more progress we will eventually make.
I’ve only just touched the surface of this book and I feel it is affecting my day to day behaviour - which always impresses me about really good books. There is one section in particular that has really resonated and that is multitrack.
Multitrack is when you work on multiple ideas/jobs/concepts at the same time.
There was some research done with a group of graphic designers who had to put together a web ad. The first group were told to work on one ad, receiving feedback after each new design. The second group was asked to come up with three ads simultaneously and reduced the ads down to two, then one after rounds of feedback.
The quality of the second groups was judged as superior by industry experts. Why? Because receiving feedback on multiple ideas simultaneously helps to triangulate the shape of the problem. This is something I’ve been working toward in my practice of using stylescapes (BB#27) with clients - testing lots of design ideas quickly helps to refine the best direction.
Not every decision needs to go through the WRAP process obviously. Deciding what you are having for dinner shouldn’t have to but then again, no one ever told me how hard it be coming up with a meal every night for the rest of your life.