Heath Bros – More Options, Please

This is the third in a series about the Heath Bros. book “Decisive”. And it is the best yet! Hold on!

We are discussing technologies that the Heath Bros. offer to improve how we make decisions.

Quick review – We have already seen that as humans, we are not very good at this. We need a process that helps us get beyond our inherent limitations. It is called “WRAP” – and the first part is the “W” – widening our options. Ready?

Here we go!

There are 3 parts to the “W” – widening our options. The first is learning how to SEE the limits we face. The second is learning how to GENERATE options. The third is what to do when you are STUCK.

First You Need a bit of background
Clever salespeople (and negotiators) know that they can sometimes get people to make a decision by reducing the problem at hand to a deceptively simple choice. Take door number 1 or door number 2. They also know that if one of the two choices looks really, really bad, people are tempted to take the other — without thinking carefully. The trick works because reducing the choice obscures that there may be a door number 3, 4 and 5. This creates a “false choice”. And the strategy works – especially in moments of stress.

The Take Away
The heath Bros. point out that we all tend to put a spotlight on what we see in front of us and frame our choices in light of what we see in that light. When we do this — which is all the time — we tend not to move the spotlight around to see other options.

This idea of a “spotlight” is useful because it brings out an inherent limitation that affects us but that we don’t notice. Whether we feel it or not, we all see only what is in our spotlight. We need help to move the spotlight around in order to see more options. That is what we mean by saying that we should widen our options. And this is the “W” in the WRAP technology.

Seeing is believing, right?
The first tool is incredibly easy — and we rarely do it. We just need to sound the alarm bell when we are making a choice based on limited options.

Here is an example. I might say “I have decided to lose weight”. Nothing wrong with this, but it is not really a choice. It is just a reinforcement of commitment to a single option. It shines an intense spotlight on the desired result. And as I argued above, this can obscure lots of related stuff. Like why I eat what I do. Lesson to digest – statements of resolve rarely work.

A choice between 2 options is nearly as bad as a statement of resolve.  But we find ourselves choosing between “this” or “that” quite a lot. But when we do, the alarm bell should go off again. When we are confronted with just 2 options, we should ask why is our choice so limited? Are there any other options?

It might surprise you how rarely people actually do this. For example, in one survey of choices made by corporate managers, only 29% of the decisions surveyed involved looking at more than one option. Only 29%! In this same survey, more than half of the decisions that considered only one option failed. Yikes! So once again — the first tool is to sound the alarm about when we frame a decision as a statement of resolve or a narrow choice.

So we have sounded the alarm bell. What next? We need tools to widen the framework that gives us options. One way is to look at the “opportunity costs” of making a choice. Imagine that you are in a stereo store looking at amplifiers. There are two amps, an expensive sexy one for 1 000€ and a nice solid one for 700€. Both look attractive. Alarm bells! This is a narrow choice!

What is the framework for the choice? To see that you might ask yourself, “what would happen if I choose neither?” This is called the “vanishing option”. What would you do? Would the world come to an end? Now you are getting a peek at the larger framework. But let’s assume that you say, my life would be better if I had one or the other. But you still can’t choose.

You might look at opportunity costs. If you choose the less expensive model, you would save 300€. You might ask yourself “What would I do with 300€ if someone gave that sum to me?” Aha! You begin to see the opportunity cost of buying the more expensive model. You still may want to do it, but you have enlarged the framework to consider other things you might want to do with your money.

Here is the underlying idea – focus is needed to analyze options. Indeed, it is at the core of how to become more productive. But it is not so great for seeing NEW options. When we are focused on what is immediately before us, we tend not to see anything else.

You might repeat this to yourself – we re building an “anti-focus” device here. And it is really important to open our eyes. But can we generate options? And what if we get stuck? That is next



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