Winter Institute Opening Speaker Dan Heath Offers Tips for Better Decision-Making

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The opening plenary speaker for Winter Institute 2014 will be author Dan Heath, who will talk about why so many critical business decisions are flawed and — more importantly — how booksellers can do better. Dan Heath and his brother, Chip, are the co-authors of the bestselling business book Decisive (Crown Business), which explores key aspects of the decision-making process and offers insightful strategies and practical tools to help individuals and businesses make better decisions.

Over the next few weeks, BTW will offer some key insights and tips from Decisive, in anticipation of a plenary talk that will do much to answer the question of how we can make better choices in life and work.

A key concept in Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive regarding decision-making is what they term the WRAP process. As they point out, to make better choices, we must avoid the most common decision-making biases. Simple awareness often is not sufficient to avoiding them, but a process can help. The WRAP process is a big asset in making better, bolder decisions.

The Wrap Framework

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

Step 1: Widen Your Options

Expand your options — People often people find themselves wondering “whether or not” they should do something. That phrase — “whether or not”— is a sign that you might be caught in a narrow frame. Keep pushing until you have two or three options to consider. A rule of thumb with decisions is to “fall in love twice.”

Consider opportunity cost — Think of a “yardstick” you could use to measure the opportunity cost of the time or money you are about to invest. For business investments, you could consider this yardstick: How many additional frontline bookseller hours could you afford if you did not make this investment?

Run the “vanishing options test” — What might you do if you could not choose any of the current options you’re considering? This exercise can move your mental spotlight elsewhere — often getting you unstuck and headed toward a better decision.

Multitrack: Think “and,” not “or” — When you seem to be facing a choice between Option 1 or Option 2, first consider whether you can do both. In other words, think “and,” not “or.” Can you follow multiple paths at once? If not, can you embrace one and sample another?

Consider both risk and opportunity — Stretch your perceptions by conducting a thought experiment: First, suppose you could double your budget next year. How would you spend it? Next, consider a bleak scenario: Suppose there was a traumatic 25 percent cutback in sales. How would you handle it? This “toggling” can help you spot new options that might combine elements of both.

Find someone who has solved your problem — Search the web for someone who has already solved your problem. Or send an e-mail to five people in your network who aren’t close friends or colleagues — so that you will tap into different networks — and ask if they know anyone who might have some insights. When you find someone who has solved your problems, you can take your pick from the world’s buffet of solutions.