Annie Duke on How to Decide, Part 3

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 3 “The Decision Multiverse”

Experience is valuable for learning, but leveraging experience incorrectly can create traps that interfere with our learning. One example of such pitfalls is the paradox of experience bias.

We experience the paradox of experience when our past carries an extraordinary amount of influence on our future decision-making process.

The immense weight of our past is not unusual. After all, while we can easily imagine many possible futures for a given decision, there is only one past.

If our past is the only instance of experience we can learn about something, we don’t have too many other options to work with because our past is all we got.

To minimize the negative effect of the paradox of experience bias, we can use techniques to counter-act the trap. Viewing the outcome that occurred in the context of other potential consequences at the time of the decision can resolve the paradox.

By recreating a simplified decision tree that reflects the potential, plausible outcomes that could have happened, the decision tree can put the actual result in its proper context.

Exploring the other possible outcomes is a form of counterfactual thinking. Practicing counterfactual thinking can help us in our future decision-making and decision-evaluation exercises by putting the results in their proper context.

Our willingness to examine outcomes also must go both directions. While we are more eager to put bad outcomes in context, we must also be willing to do the same for the good outcomes.

It can be challenging to put the excellent outcomes in perspective, but becoming a better decision-maker requires us to do it regularly.