To succeed as a leader and successfully navigate the challenges you face demands making decisions. You are the director of a large cast of faculty and staff who count on you to assess the situation, utilize the expertise of your team and call for “action.” This past summer Chip and Dan Heath examined the past 40 years of psychological research, including the newest work in neuropsychology and behavioral economics, on decision-making and their work can help leaders call for the best “action!” Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford and his brother Dan is a senior fellow at Duke University. They co-authored Made to Stick and Switch, books that offer practical advice for leaders on effective communication and change management. Their latest book, Decisive, addresses how to make good decisions. I want to highlight their 4 step process for improving how people can make decisions.
What has become clear over time is that humans are hard-wired to push for action and we use many mental and emotional short cuts to help us make decisions and move forward. Even with an awareness of our decision-making biases they still have a negative impact on the quality of our decisions. The Heath brothers suggest that we must move past trying to avoid or eliminate our short-cuts and instead utilize a 4 step checklist or framework to ensure that our biases don’t send us down the wrong path. The framework goes by the acronym WRAP.
- Widen your options – actively seek out more choices. Engage in debate and don’t rush to narrowing your choices.
- Reality-test your assumptions – ask questions that challenge your insights and initial responses.
- Attain distance before deciding – force yourself to step back and clarify your long-term priorities before you take action. Ignore your immediate excitement at finding a good idea.
- Prepare to be wrong – focus on success and not proving that you made the right decision. Plan to make changes that will help your decisions succeed in an uncertain future that can’t be predicted.
Keeping the WRAP framework in mind as you grapple with day-to-day issues and make strategic decisions can help you take action to focus on what is truly important and not get side-tracked by our human tendencies.