Decisive – can you have your cake and eat it?

Discernment is DecisiveChip and Dan Heath have done it again. First they helped us make our messages memorable with Made to Stick, then they showed us how to make lasting changes to achieve dramatic results with Switch. Now in their latest book, Decisive they provide a process to help us make better decisions.

Their process is called WRAP. And it goes like this.

Widen your options: when making decisions we often make an assumption that we are choosing one option at the expense of another. Why can’t we choose both? Decisive asks us to consider using AND instead of OR, to widen our choice options. Perhaps it is possible to have your cake and eat it after all? Another way to widen our options is to find someone else who has already solved your problem and learn from them.  For example swimwear designers got inspiration from sharks and torpedoes when developing optimum swimwear for Olympic athletes.

Reality-test your assumptions: we tend to make decisions and then seek evidence to back them up. So we need to ask some questions that disconfirm – or even consider the opposite of what we have decided. For example; What are the problems with developing our mailing programme for regular giving? I particularly like the concept of ‘ooching’ to reality test assumptions. This is conducting small experiments to find out more, e.g. trying your regular giving idea with a small sample or making a prototype of your new product and get your customers to try it before you move into mass production. Don’t take risks by predicting (which Chip and Dan show we are diabolical at anyway) when you could know.

Attain distance before deciding: we make decisions based on emotion. Therefore if we can distance ourselves from the emotions driving our decision we can be more objective. A way to distance our emotional reaction is to consider what we would tell our best friend to do, or consider what would our successor do?  You could also use the 10/10/10 tool that helps us to think about our decision in three different time frames; 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now.  How would we feel in those different time frames if we took that decision – or as importantly if we didn’t take that decision? The 10/10/10 tool helps to keep intense short-term emotion in perspective. In attaining distance we must also be mindful of and keep true to our core priorities. E.g. if our core priority is having fulfilling work we will make different decisions about a job opportunity than if our core priority was to be rich.  (Although we might have an immediate emotional reaction to a big pay check)

Prepare to be wrong: we are often overconfident in our decision-making and we should therefore better prepare for bad outcomes. One way to do this is to set a tripwire that helps us reconsider our decision at a particular point in time. E.g. setting a tripwire to reconsider your new business idea if you have not made a single sale within 3 months. Dave Le Roth was the lead singer of Van Halen. In the 1970’s and 80s they were renowned for their complex live tour stage shows. They toured a lot and their schedule meant there was no time at each venue to do a through set up test. They had to rely on the attention to detail of the crews at the venues. Van Halens contract demanded that there must be a bowl of M&Ms backstage with all the brown ones taken out. This M&M clause was hidden amid many technical specifications. If Roth spotted a brown M&M he would demand a line check of the whole production because it showed that they didn’t read the contract. The brown M&Ms were his tripwire.

For more tactics to help you make better decisions I recommend a read of Decisive, but if you can’t decide then you can download some free resources from


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