Annie Duke on How to Decide, Part 1

In her book, How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, Annie Duke discusses how to train our brains to combat our own bias and help ourselves make more confident and better decisions.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 1 “Resulting”

Resulting is the tendency to judge the quality of a decision based purely on the outcome’s quality. We succumb to resulting when we attribute good results to the right decisions while relating the poor outcomes of ours to just bad luck.

Outcomes cast a significant shadow over the decision process because we naturally assess our decisions based on the outcomes. Resulting can be a trap if we are not careful or become unaware of it.

Luck is the significant force that intervenes between our decision and the actual outcome. The bias of resulting can cloud our view of the role of luck. Resulting can also reduce our compassion for others when we attribute other people’s poor outcomes due to their bad decision-making.

For many things in life, it is not always possible to establish a strong causal relationship between the quality of the decision and the quality and the quality of the outcome in the short-term. The two may be correlated, but the relationship can take a long time to play out.

Making better decisions starts with learning from experience. The bias of resulting can interfere with that learning process by preventing us from examining good-quality/good-outcome decisions (and poor-quality/poor-outcome decisions), which can offer valuable lessons for future decisions.

Worse yet, resulting might even put us in a trap by causing us to repeat some low-quality decisions that did not blow up before. Resulting can also stop us from re-examining some potentially good-quality decisions.

When we make decisions, especially the complicated ones, we can rarely guarantee an inevitable outcome. Instead, our goal should be to try to choose the option that will lead to the most favorable range of results.