Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Making Better Decisions as School Leaders: Fighting 4 Villains of Decision-Making

Are you faced with making a major decision or decisions as the school year begins? In our educator roles, the excitement and anticipation of the new year comes packaged with anxiety and worry about decisions we face. Being "decisive" means making the right choices in these situations, and authors Chip and Dan Heath offer school leaders just the right advice on how to be decisive in their new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. It is must-have addition the library of anyone tasked with making significant decisions for their school or district.

According to Chip and Dan Heath, what complicates our decision-making are what they call "The Four Villains of Decision Making." These four villains are:
  • Narrow Framing: According to the Heaths, narrow framing is "the tendency to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms."  This narrowing of options is automatic and causes us to fail to see options that might be better than the ones currently in our "spotlight."
  • Confirmation Bias: According to the Heaths, confirmation bias is "probably the single biggest problem in business. It causes even the most sophisticated to get things wrong." In confirmation bias, we seek information that bolsters our current beliefs, which causes us to fail to see perfectly valid information that might help us make better decisions.
  • Short-Term Emotion: The villain "short-term emotion" is simply when we allow our impermanent, short-term feelings influence our decision-making. This villain causes us to make rash decisions that often make situations even worse.
  • Overconfidence: The Heaths say overconfidence is when we "place too much faith in our predictions." "People think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold." The truth is, as the Heaths point out in their book Decisive, people are more often wrong in their predictions than they are right, yet we display overconfidence in how we think things will turn out.
How can we minimize the effects of these four "villains of decision-making?" What are some strategies to ensure that we can counteract them? According to Chip and Dan Heath, there are groups of strategies that can help. Their book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work is full of strategies that they group together under the acronym WRAP. The letters WRAP stand  for the following groups of strategies:

Widen Your Options: These are strategies designed to get you to look for options you are missing due to narrow framing. Strategies suggested by the Heaths include: multitracking, finding someone who's solved your problem, laddering, and looking at analogies from related domains.

Reality-Test Your Assumptions: Because confirmation bias causes us to look for "skewed, self-serving information" we need strategies to counteract that bias. According to the Heaths, those strategies include: asking disconfirming questions, zoom out/zoom in, and "ooching."

Attain Distance Before Deciding: To counteract the villain of short-term emotion, they suggest a group of strategies that help you attain distance before deciding. These strategies include: shifting perspective, 10/10/10, or clarifying core priorities.

Prepare to Be Wrong:  As an antidote to overconfidence, the Heath's suggest three strategies: prepare for bad outcomes(premortem)  and good outcomes (preparade), look at what would make you reconsider your decision, and set tripwires to trigger attention.

Chip and Dan Heath's book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, methodically takes readers through these groups of strategies with clear descriptions and lots of informative examples that help you make much better decisions by defeating the four villains of decision making. It is the straightforward advice we've come to expect  from the same authors of the books Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

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