The next 10 books you should consider on decision-making

… to complement the excellent and widely praised “” from Daniel Kahneman. As I’m currently writing on the complexity of decisions we encounter in our lives, I realized that there are so many books on decision-making available today that I thought it would be great to pay tribute to those authors and researchers who inspire me as well as to help newcomers decide what book is best to read next. This list is neither ordered nor exhaustive but covers a broad spectrum of situations where decisions come into play.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

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When I think about which book I would recommend first to someone looking for their first reading on practical decision-making, I would probably name “.” Although I’m not a big fan of their WRAP framework, which I found a bit artificial, I’m positively in line with their depiction of recurring issues that we should pay attention to when deciding. I feel like this book carries the right balance of practicality and genericity. [Goodreads]

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely

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Dan Ariely’s classic. Via several fascinating randomized experiments, Dan and his team highlight the lack of consistency in our decisions. They demonstrate that things that should not interfere in a decision can significantly affect our choices. I don’t necessarily agree with his view on rationality, and I feel like the studies tend to demonstrate that “we’re all dumb in a way” — and we certainly are — but I regret the next step is missing: do we observe such lack of consistency? (Note how I prefer the term “consistency/inconsistency” rather than rationality/irrationality in this kind of context). None the less, “” is the sort of book that will make you remark on configurations of Decisions that you probably hadn’t noticed before, which makes it worth the read, and I’m personally in line with Dan’s view on classical vs. behavioral economic theories.

I recommend the revised edition to benefit from updated results.

Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction in Life and Markets, by John Brockman

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In this book, John Brockman has put together a captivating collection of thoughts on decision making by leading psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers. From the book’s summary:

  • on the power (and pitfalls) of human intuition and “unconscious” thinking
  • on desire, prediction, and why getting what we want doesn’t always make us happy
  • on the limitations of statistics in guiding decision-making
  • on the scientific underpinnings of human nature
    Simon Baron-Cohen on the startling effects of testosterone on the brain
    Daniel C. Dennett on decoding the architecture of the “normal” human mind
  • on mental disorders and the crucial developmental phase of adolescence
  • , and on the science of morality, ethics, and the emerging synthesis of evolutionary and biological thinking
  • on rationality and what informs our choices.

If you’re already familiar with those authors, you’ll probably find their lectures somewhat redundant with what is already available in their respective books or papers, but no doubt you will also enjoy reading their more original ideas. Below is a quote from in “” that resonated well with me.

This lines up with some of my observations drawn during various conversations with acquaintances amidst decisions they had to make (in the unavoidable “where to live” or “what job to take” kind of decisions). By the way, I was pleased to find some more critics expressed toward classical economic theories. [Goodreads]

Rational Decisions, by Ken Binmore

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Ken Binmore is a well-known researcher in decision theory, and anyone looking for references on rationality in game theory should consider reading Ken Binmore. “,” specifically, dives deep into the topic of characterizing probabilistic Nash Equilibrium in the context of Von Neumann and Morgenstern auctions and presents how bayesianism can be leveraged in “large world.” Before, during, or after reading this book, I want to personally encourage every reader to think about actual situations where we face this type of configuration; this should be an eye-opener for some, as I believe that we often fail to recognize the kind of decision that we are facing so that we can apply the right tools and get the most out of the situation.

Thinking In Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, by Annie Duke

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One possible explanation of why Annie Duke’s book became a best seller might be that poker — in which she operates at professional level — has evidently its own set of critical decisions, and those decisions require players to deal with uncertainty. An excellent analogy to real-world situations? Annie Duke explains how she was able to make progress in her career as a professional poker player and how she was able to apply those learnings to other situations outside poker. The central theme is around using the question “” to gauge our confidence in a decision, an idea that Immanuel Kant himself had developed in the 18th century. As part of my manager role, I can testify that this thought experiment proved itself a great litmus test to drive some group decisions. Another central point that Annie will continuously highlight is called “resulting.” If you’re just starting your journey in the world of effective decision making, you’re likely to find that concept — coming straight from the poker world — is more often than not negatively affecting our ability to learn from failures and successes.

Resulting is an issue that Annie Duke addresses in-depth in her “” and approaches in her second book on decision-making, “.” [Goodreads]

How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, by Annie Duke (again)

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In her second book, Annie Duke lays out a practical framework for approaching decisions. This one is arranged as a workshop so that readers can apply the different principles to their actual situations. In fact, the main strength of “” is to be highly practical, while on the other hand, it will be lacking depth in the more theoretical and philosophical domain. What you get from “How to decide” is a solid decision process, but it is only decision process (and fair to Annie, it’s advertised as such). Still, Annie Duke’s point of view is well thought out and inspiring. In particular, I share her view on the role that plays in decision making.

Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb isn’t necessarily the first person that comes to mind when we think about decision theory, but his work deserves to be considered in a decision context. His approach of risk management (or no-risk management?) derived from a deep understanding of distinct probability distribution laws has been popularized by his best-seller “,” but to me, I would pick “” as the book to read.

That quote describes concisely and accurately what this Taleb’s book is all about. While you shouldn’t expect to find tips for better decisions, “Skin in the Game” gives a relevant view on properly assessing the quality of the inputs we’re provided when making decisions. Typically, would you rely on my judgment if I would recommend my own book on this list? [Goodreads]

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life, by Anne Bogel

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Anne Bogel brings a different point of view by asking a different question: “at which point should we stop thinking before deciding?”

The author mainly discusses situations where we spent too much time thinking before deciding. Thus mostly inconsequential decisions. Such decisions are also discussed in “” (see above), but here Anne Bogel proposes autobiographical situations that should sound familiar to pretty much everyone. If you feel paralyzed by some decisions that you believe shouldn’t monopolize that much of your time, reading through Anne’s stories should be a first step toward faster decision makings. [Goodreads]

The Art Of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar

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If you wonder how the cultural environment affects choices, then you’ll find some insights in “.” Several experiments and studies are presented to outline how we behave in different contexts where decisions are involved. This book is less about the highly theoretical aspect and more about the psychological and cultural factors. [Goodreads]

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou

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You’ll find many fascinating stories in the literature about either success-stories or business-dramas. Both kinds of scenarios are insightful for whoever wants to spend some time analyzing how critical decisions have been made. The aerospace industry, in particular, is an outstanding ground. If you happen to read the documented stories of Challenger or Apollo XIII, you should be struck by how a weak understanding of probabilities, flawed group decisions, and unconscious cognitive biases can lead to severe disasters. The business story I want to propose today as a study case is “” in which the journalist John Carreyrou documents the fall of Theranos. This promising Californian startup managed to close outstanding deals, whereas it was apparent from the inside that these were terrible deals (and they turned out to be terrible deals indeed).

If you want to reflect on Walgreens’s decisions, the board’s, or Elizabeth Holmes’, the former CEO, then “” should be on your list. Plus, it’s a great book anyway. [Goodreads]

Electronic Music artist as Paranormind. Photography. Computer Science. Machine Learning & Data-related things.

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