As humans, we’re faced with an endless array of daily decisions. Everything from what we wear, to what we eat, how we spend our time and more require conscious discernment to ensure we’re maximizing our chances of success, while minimizing decision making stress.
But what does that look like for the aspiring entrepreneur who, in addition to the roughly 35,000 daily choices of the average person, has to also make critical decisions that could make or break the future of their business?
Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath speak to this decision-making-dilemma in their book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. In it they note, “When it comes to making decisions, it’s clear that our brains are flawed instruments.”
They further contend that each step in our decision making process has a “villain” from our flawed brain trying to find ways of making decisions fast and efficiently. This process, if left on autopilot can hinder our success.
- We have too narrow a focus. Far too often we are guilty of “spotlight thinking” — focusing on the obvious and overlooking important facts outside of our immediate view.
- We develop confirmation bias. Rather than allow relevant information to drive our decision making process, we develop a quick belief about something and then seek out information that confirms that belief.
- We are driven by short-term emotion. We’re prone to become too emotionally connected to a decision and struggle with detaching ourselves.
- We suffer from overconfidence. We assume that we know more than we actually do, which leads to inaccurately predicting what may happen in the future.
Fortunately, the Heath brothers have outlined a four-step technique — the WRAP process — that can be used to counteract these “villains” and put us on the path to better decisions.
Here’s is a quick rundown of each step along with ideas on how you can implement them in your entrepreneurial journey.
W – Widen Your Options
One of the primary pitfalls in decision making is having a narrow frame — meaning we don’t consider possible alternatives that might be better solutions than our initial course of action.
As aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s not uncommon to view situations as binary and subsequently choose between the only two options believed to be available. In reality, there are many more possibilities if we would just adjust our thinking from ‘OR’ to ‘AND’.
This is known as multitracking.
For example, instead of deciding between staying with your current employer or leaving to make the entrepreneurial leap, look into several options for maintaining your current job while starting your business on the side.
Another way to widen your options is to find someone who has already solved a problem similar to yours and find out what they did and how it turned out. Given the previous example, find a person that has ‘sidehustled’ their way to full-time entrepreneurship and see what they did to make it work.
If you don’t know anyone personally, find someone online who has been in your shoes and learn from what they did when they were in your situation.
R – Reality-Test Your Assumptions
In assessing how realistic our options are, confirmation bias often leads us to collect skewed, self-serving information.
To combat this bias, we should start by considering the opposite opinion.
In other words, look for reasons why the decision that we want to make could be the wrong one. Find someone (whether online or in-person) who completely disagrees with our point of view and ask probing, disconfirming questions to try and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their argument.
We can also use a Zoom In/Out approach to overcome confirmation bias.
Have you ever thought about trying out a new restaurant in town, but asked a few friends what they thought and checked online reviews before deciding to try it out?
This is exactly what is meant by the Zoom In/Out approach.
By asking for the real-world experience of others with a similar perspective to yours, you are zooming in. Conversely, by checking online reviews, you are zooming out and reviewing macro data which may paint a completely different picture.
The final recommendation from the Heaths to reality-test our assumptions is to “ooch”. To “ooch” means to test our theories on a small scale, rather than investing resources and effort towards a decision that may not be the best choice.
For example, if you’re an aspiring fitness instructor you might consider teaching smaller classes at a local park for a few months before renting out space and committing long-term to running a fitness studio.
A – Attain Distance Before Deciding
Short-term emotion can cause us to make decisions that aren’t in our best interest long-term. To combat that, we should take a “cooling off” period to refocus and honor our core priorities.
The book suggests a 10/10/10 approach where we ask ourselves how we will feel about the decision in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.
By doing so, we’re able to reflect on what is most important and consider the decision in light of those priorities.
P – Prepare to be Wrong
Preparing to be wrong almost feels counterintuitive — especially when you consider the hard-driving, never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude that we’ve been inclined to believe makes us successful entrepreneurs.
But the reality is, no matter how great our product or service may be the future is always uncertain so we need to prepare.
Whether things succeed fantastically (the book calls “pre-parade”) or our plans fail miserably (pre-mortem), we should have a plan in place outlining how we should respond. Within that plan we should set a tripwire that helps us decide at what point we would change direction and pursue a different course of action.
A question to ask yourself is, “if this fails, what would have gone wrong, and why?” On the flip side, you can ask yourself, “if this succeeds, what were the key contributing factors?” The answers may lead to surprising results that help you create flexibility in your plans.
While we’ll never outlive the necessity to make tough decisions, they don’t need to be massive drains on our time and psyche. By utilizing the WRAP process, we can expand our possibilities, test our theories, make preparation for wild success and utter failure, and avoid short-term decisions that we’ll later forget.
So what do you think? Does this framework for decision making resonate with you? As a business owner myself, I also find it useful for getting out of a place of feeling stuck and unable to move forward.