Decisive: Summary and Review


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath

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This book was directly responsible for me choosing to work in the tech industry. It allowed me to explore far more options that I thought I had available to me as a business school graduate who could have taken a traditional path in finance, consulting, or marketing.

For the story of how I made the pivot, see: How I got my dream job in the tech industry without a CS degree

The Heath Brothers once again deliver a fun, engaging reading style. I especially appreciate their use of acronyms as a way to help you remember the concepts.


WRAP Acronym:

  • Widen Your Options
  • Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  • Attain Distance Before Deciding
  • Prepare To Be Wrong

Widen Your Options

Avoid pattern-matching to find unexpected opportunities for success. E.g. Rogain caused back hair as an unwanted symptom. However, this was a benefit if the drug can be used as an anti-balding medication.

Coach your employees to recognize patterns of threat or opportunity: “If you see people using our product in a way we haven’t anticipated, let’s talk about it.”

Reality-Test Your Assumptions

Try experiments to get evidence to confirm or disconfirm your assumptions.

Execute the decision in a partial, small, or scope-limited way instead of making the full decision to see how it will play out.

Attain Distance Before Deciding

To avoid getting stuck with currently heightened emotions from clouding your judgement, do a thought experiment of how you feel about the decision 1, 10, 20 years from today. Ask someone who is not involved with the decision for their impartial opinion.

Prepare To Be Wrong

Set clear parameters and metrics for how you can measure if the decision is a success or failure. If you see the decision veering off into failure, this will let you know to react and maybe reverse it. Planning for failure helps you be more confident in the present decision, because it helps you manage risk and makes you feel more secure in the decision.

Tripwire: brown M&Ms to alert you to wake up from autopilot. The presence of brown M&Ms indicates deeper issues that aren’t visible but can be catastrophic.

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