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How to Decide

Simple Tools for Making Better Choices

By Annie Duke
16-minute read
Audio available
How to Decide by Annie Duke

How to Decide (2020) investigates the way we make decisions, as well as common types of bias and faulty techniques that afflict them. It teaches you how to identify different types of decisions, and then design practical processes to help slow down or speed up the deliberation process accordingly.

  • Anyone interested in decision-making strategies
  • People who like psychology
  • Business managers who make big decisions regularly

Annie Duke is a former professional poker player. A 2004 World Series of Poker champion, Duke has written or co-written numerous books on poker, such as Decide to Play Great Poker, which she co-wrote with John Vorhaus. She also wrote Thinking in Bets, an exploration of decision-making strategies under uncertainty.

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How to Decide

Simple Tools for Making Better Choices

By Annie Duke
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
How to Decide by Annie Duke
Synopsis

How to Decide (2020) investigates the way we make decisions, as well as common types of bias and faulty techniques that afflict them. It teaches you how to identify different types of decisions, and then design practical processes to help slow down or speed up the deliberation process accordingly.

Key idea 1 of 10

We mistakenly use the quality of a result to assess the quality of a decision.

Imagine you’ve accepted a new job, and everything is fantastic: great colleagues, satisfying work, and after a year you’re rewarded with a generous promotion.

Now, consider a similar situation. You accept a new job, but the outcome is the exact opposite: unfulfilling work, unfriendly colleagues, and, on top of all that, you get the boot. A year later, you’re out of work.

Which job hop was a good decision? The first one, right? After all, it brought enjoyable work, more money, and you didn’t get fired. Let’s pause right there – because you may have noticed that this assessment is based entirely on the decision’s outcome. It says little about the decision itself.

The key message here is: We mistakenly use the quality of a result to assess the quality of a decision.

We often forget the process that went into a decision. We usually remember the result. Focusing solely on results, however, can lead to a misguided assessment of the decision’s quality. 

Using the result to evaluate the quality of a decision is called resulting. In psychology, it’s also known as outcome bias. It may feel rational, but this mental shortcut actually tricks us into putting more weight on the role a decision played in the final outcome while underestimating the role of luck.

Every decision has a range of possible outcomes. These outcomes can be good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. Whatever it is, though, our perception of how that outcome was achieved changes in retrospect. So, we may believe misfortune led to a bad outcome, or take credit for a good outcome, even if it was partly a matter of dumb luck. 

Resulting leads to repeating the same errors or faulty decisions because we’re not assessing the decision-making process at all. We’re only looking at the outcome. For example, if you run a red light safely, does the positive outcome mean you made the right decision? Clearly not.

Resulting also affects the way we view the world. It can compromise our compassion for others and ourselves. We may decide that something bad has happened to someone because they made a bad decision. Or blame ourselves if something doesn’t go as planned for us, even if some factors were beyond our control. 

Eliminating our reliance on resulting is the first step to making better quality decisions, regardless of positive or negative outcomes.

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