[review]

As part of a work reading club, I recently read Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath. Throughout the book, the brothers discuss a new methodology for making decisions called WRAP. Chip and Dan use real life examples from companies and personal experiences to describe the framework while providing a lot of other tips on making better decisions.

The WRAP Framework For Decision Making

Wrap stands for:

  • Widen Your Options
  • Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  • Attain Distance Before Deciding
  • Prepare to Be Wrong

But what do all these steps mean?

Widen Your Options

Narrow Frame

In decision making, it’s a good idea to think about the big picture and avoid “narrowing your frame.” If you just graduated from college and are starting a new job, you probably need a new car. So you go to the dealership and look for a nice, new car. Did you consider a used car? Even better, did you consider biking or taking the subway?

When making decisions you need to look beyond the initial focus and try to consider all options.

Whether or Not

Dan and Chip also want you to avoid “whether or not decisions.” These are decisions where you are trying to decide between two things. Is there any way you can do both? What if you couldn’t do either?

Reality-Test Your Assumptions

Ooching (Piloting)

One of my favorite terms from Decisive is “Ooching.” Ooching is essentially piloting a decision, trying it out in small doses until the decision is fully made. If you’re looking to buy a house, why not try renting a house first? Then you will know whether you truly want a house. Buying a car? Take it for a test drive or even lease it. That way if you realize you have made a mistake, you can always reverse the decision.

Attain Distance Before Deciding

Have you ever walked onto a car dealership lot without any intention of buying a car, but all of a sudden an hour later your were walking out with the keys to a new car? Car salesmen are very adept at building up your emotion so that you have to have that brand-new, shiny, expensive car.

Chip and Dan describe a journalist who worked undercover as a car salesman to get the inside scoop on the sleazy salesman. He learned that he wanted customers to “stop thinking and start feeling.” Instead of letting them look at the price and features of the cars, he had to convince the customers to sit in the cars and take them for a test-drive. As soon as the customer felt how good the car felt, they were hooked.

The best way to avoid this feeling is to be ready to walk away from any deal at a car dealership. Once you’ve taken that car for a test-drive, walk off the lot and go home. Once the immediate gratification from driving the car fades, you will be better able to decide whether you really need that car or if you can go with a cheaper model.

Shep at Lifehacker recently wrote a great article on how to detach yourself from reality for better decision making.

10/10/10

Another strategy Chip and Dan mention is the 10/10/10 rule. When making a decision, how would you feel about the outcome in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? You can use this method if you’re trying to decide whether you want to ask out someone you like. If you ask them and they say no, you’ll be embarrassed in 10 minutes, but 10 months from now you won’t really care and within 10 years you may have forgotten. However, if they say yes, who knows. Maybe in 10 years you’ll be married with kids.

Prepare to Be Wrong

In the final section of the book, Chip and Dan talk about tripwires and considering ranges. In this section, you will learn why:

  • Roth, lead singer of Van Halen, always requested that a bowl of M&Ms be placed backstage with all the brown M&Ms removed
  • Zappos is willing to give $1000 to any new hire who wants to quit
  • Kodak went bankrupt
  • Elevator cables are stronger than they need to be

Buy the Book

Want to make better decisions? I highly recommend this book if only because the framework is so useful. It is definitely not the only decision-making framework, but it is helpful in making big decisions a bit easier.