Have you ever given any thought to your decision-making skills?
Whenever you are confronted with a choice, you pick one based on your understanding of the choices open to you. But how capable you are at envisaging a 360° view of the issue at hand and how competently you can analyze and weigh those choices will make a big impact on your decision.
Decisions about your attire for the day or food selections are not as important and far-reaching as many others. Such as choices regarding career, life partner, having a child, or relocating to a new country.
A point often forgotten is the role played by the decisions in shaping our lives. Whether big or small, all decisions affect us in some way or the other. Even a single seemingly inconsequential decision can change the course of your life. Often you realize this much later on when you are not in a position to reverse it. After all, we cannot turn the clock back.
Think back and pick a few decisions you made. Try to understand how it shaped the course of your life. Did you have any more choices? How different your life would have been if you had taken any of the other choices available?
The purpose of this exercise is not to trigger regrets and remorse. Would you have made the same decisions now? If not, why? What additional skills do you have now?
The longer you live and gather more life experiences, your decision-making skills will get better. The older, the wiser, they say. But it would be foolish to wait until old age to become wiser. By then, your life would be set on a fixed path. Most of the major decisions in life would be over. And, there are facets to human decision-making that experience cannot help us with.
The only sensible thing for you to do is to improve your decision-making skills. This involves training your mind to think in certain ways. Fortunately for you, this is a skill you can learn and master.
However, unfortunately, this is not something you can learn in a class or imbibe from someone. It is too slow a process that requires constant attention and effort. This makes books your best bet to achieve this.
If you are keen on upgrading your decision-making capabilities, read on. In this article, you will find a list of the best books for improving your decision-making skills.
5 best books to upgrade your decision-making
1. How Women Decide
by Therese Huston
This is a book especially meant for women to help them navigate the treacherous waters of daily life. It is a proven fact that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. They think differently and obviously, make decisions differently.
But the question is how different are men and women? How do women arrive at decisions? What influences a woman’s decision?
Gender bias is one of the stark realities of this world. Women are forced to work harder to prove themselves in a man’s world. Their decisions are scrutinized much more than their male counterparts. That said, when a woman is in a position to make decisions for others, should she leave her femininity aside and follow the man’s path?
Numerous factors affect decision-making, in both men and women. Their confidence, knowledge, experience, and skills besides negative elements like stress, anxiety, caution, and fear of failure.
The general misconception is that women are not bold decision-makers. This cannot be further from the truth. When given a chance, women are as decisive as men. As their decisions are viewed through a microscope more often, mistakes made by women are highlighted and never forgotten. This is what earns women the bad reputation of being poor decision-makers.
With well-balanced arguments, real-life stories, entertaining vignettes, and well-supported evidence and anecdotes, Dr. Huston shows how women can transform their perceptions, habits, and strategies for the better. The suggestions and tips given in the book are not only meant for women; they are equally helpful for men as well.
The author tells us that better decisions are made when women are in leadership roles and with their active participation. Often women are prevented from achieving their potential by gender disparity, stereotyping, lack of awareness, and skewed systems. With the right attitude and proper guidance, anyone can overcome these roadblocks to be better decision-makers.
2. Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions
by John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa
The authors, John Hammond, Ralph Keeney, and Howard Raiffa, with the collective wisdom of more than 100 years, have brought out this book to help their fellow beings live the best life possible by learning to make smart choices.
This book offers the reader a simple, tried-and-tested, and flexible path to making better decisions. Also included in the book are tools to help you master this skill.
The authors offer a step-by-step approach, making the learning process easier for you. This book will teach you how you can:
- Assess your objectives
- Break down the choice into smaller and more manageable components
- Figure out the key elements of the choices
- Follow systematic thinking
- Pick the relevant information
The book follows an indigenously-developed formula named PrOACT-URL to help you improve your decision-making process. PrOACT-URL means,
- Problem: Work on the right decision problem
- Objective: Specify your objectives
- Alternatives: Create imaginative alternatives
- Consequences: Understand the consequences
- Trade-Offs: Grapple with your tradeoffs
- Uncertainty: Clarify your uncertainties
- Risk Tolerance: Think hard about your risk tolerance
- Linked Decisions: Consider linked decisions
The authors do not make any effort to patronize you by solving your problems for you or telling you what decisions to make. They merely give you the tools to make your own decisions. The book tells you how to make decisions and guides you all the way.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that when you finish reading the book once, you will be a changed person. Improving your decision-making skill involves changing your mindset and this is something that takes a long time to master.
You may need to read the book multiple times to understand the concept completely and still more time to make it part of your behavior. The more you use this method, the more confident you would be and the better you would be at making decisions.
One of the most significant suggestions in the book is to be enterprising and a go-getter. Instead of waiting for a situation to be thrust on you and a decision forced on you, be far-sighted and seek the decisions out well in advance. You will have time on your side.
Make smart choices a habit and your life is set for smooth sailing.
3. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
by Dan Heath and Chip Heath
Easy to read and packed with information and practical suggestions, Decisive is one of the best books to improve decision-making skills. The authors tackle the issue of bad decision-making by turning the focus on its root causes – biases, irrationalities, overconfidence, and being selective about the information we choose to see and use.
These are not the only ones. Our short-term emotional outbursts and flaws in the functioning of the brain contribute to our error in judgment in ample measures. The authors tell us that being aware of our shortcomings is not going to fix the problem. What we need is a different approach.
The book proposes the WRAP approach.
- Widen your options
- Reality-test your assumptions
- Attain distance before deciding
- Prepare to be wrong
The authors support their approach to human decision-making with data and research from exhaustive studies on the subject. The book includes anecdotes of a rock star and his smart decision-making strategy and a disastrous acquisition attempt of a CEO.
Finally, the authors condense it down to one single question – a question that can get you out of difficult situations and help you make the right decision.
4. Principles: Life and Work
by Ray Dalio
The author Ray Dalio is the founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based Hedge Fund, managing assets worth more than $160 billion. In his journey to success, Dalio learned a unique set of principles that helped in his meteoric rise to wealth and fame.
Dalio describes this principle as “an idea meritocracy that strives to achieve meaningful work and meaningful relationships through radical transparency”. He dedicates his phenomenal success to this thought process.
According to the author, principles are the fundamental truths that form the foundations for your behavior. Ultimately, this is what helps you get what you want in life. He tells us that we can apply these principles repeatedly in identical situations and succeed every single time.
Dalio strongly put forth the argument that life, investing, management, and economics can be decoded and organized into rules that are easier to understand like machines. He offers hundreds of practical lessons to help us understand and learn the basic tenets of “radical truth” and “radical transparency.
According to Dalio, this is the most effective way for individuals as well as organizations to approach challenges, make decisions, and develop strong teams. Dalio believes that this is an approach that can be learned and applied by anyone, no matter where they come from and what their goal is.
However, Dalio encourages readers to create their own set of principles to suit their core selves and their goals. There is only one word of caution from Dalio for organizations – make sure your work principles align well with your employees’ life principles.
5. Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
The author, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 and a psychologist, gives us an inkling about how our minds work. In this book, he explains the two systems, conscious and automatic, that are in a constant battle to gain control of our brains.
While the automatic system works faster and is more intuitive and uninhibited, the conscious system is slower, more logical, and more contemplative. Though both these systems are vital for our functioning, they often find themselves at loggerheads with each other. Whenever they fail to work in tandem, it leads to errors in judgment, memory, and decisions.
The author also gives the readers tips and suggestions on how to deal with such situations and avoid such errors. Every aspect of our lives, including personal life and career, depends on how well these two systems learn to accommodate each other and work well together.
The author engages the reader with his lively narration on matters related to the mind. He teaches us when we can trust our instincts and when we need to be wary of them. He shows us the benefits of slowing down the thinking process. With practical and informative insights on how we make choices, the author suggests how we can avoid mix-ups that may get us into tricky situations.
Some more great decision-making books
- Mastery by Robert Greene
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- Yes or No by Spencer Johnson
- How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
- Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke
- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
- Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres
- Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
As you can see, there are some of the best decision-making books by renowned authors that can help you improve your decision-making skills. Here, it is the problem of plenty. Which ones to choose or where to start?
This is indeed a dilemma. All of them are excellent in their own right but which one will benefit you the most will depend on where you are now and what your needs and expectations are. If you are unable to make up your mind, you should try reading more detailed reviews of the books to get a better understanding of what each one of them can offer.
In case you are still confused, you can start with either Smart Choices or Decisive. Both are easy to read, understand and follow. Once you get a better understanding of how to improve the decision-making process, you can absorb more pointers from other books and refine your skills.