4 Ways to Help You Decide on Your New Career

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I’ve just read a good book about decision making called, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Business by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

I thought it worth summarizing 4 lessons I took from the book since if you’re considering a change of careers and you’re trying to narrow in on the one that is right for you, you’ll know already that decisions like these aren’t binary.

In other words, each decision has a consequence that might be unintended but you know that its worth going down that route since it will pay back the most dividends further down the line.

The writers lay out the following four steps that should be included in the decision making process:

  • Consider at least two robust options for every decision.
As it suggests, from the long list of choices, you should filter to a short list of two or three that have withstood scrutiny as to their viability.  What is a bit disappointing is the fact the book doesn’t fully provide you with a means of dismissing those options which don’t make the short list.
What it says is that it comes down to identifying those options which you’ve identified as being most likely to lead you to the outputs you’re looking for…. Of course, if you already know this you may not have started to read the book but the basic premise of whittling down to two very strong possibilities holds true.
Introduce debate from either side of the argument and test hypotheses and assumptions.
This suggests an attempt to counter the behavioral concept of confirmation bias which is demonstrated well in a study which examined horse racing betters.  They were found to be significantly more confident in their horse winning after having placed their bet than before.
In other words, we look for reasons why we’re right and ignore that which might be counter to our decisions.  The book suggests that we should try to remain objective through the use of research to test our beliefs.
This might not be possible when you’re under pressure to make a decision but at a minimum, we would benefit from a greater awareness of the tenancy towards confirmation bias.
  • Don’t be afraid of “firing” yourself and removing yourself from the decision making process. Doing so can allow the hypothetical question to be asked as to what your “successor” would do in the same situation.  

 The book gives the example of the mid-1980s when Intel’s Andy Grove managed to break the company’s indecision of how to allocate resources and whether it should move its investment from the firm’s well established memory chips business into the emerging microprocessors sector.

By asking what his successor would do were he fired allowed an objective decision to be made and one which placed it at the center of the new industry for the years ahead.

  • Set an ultimatum so if a team or company goal is not achieved then by X time in the future then it should revert to a plan B. 

Despite our high convictions, the book points out that our predictions are often incorrect.  Research has shown that 40% of doctors who are 100% sure of their assessment of patient illnesses are actually wrong.   By  introducing a deadline for the desired outcome it forces us to “divorce” ourselves from what we are aiming for.

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