Ok, I’ll be really honest. This book gave me anxiety. Almost halfway through, as I was reading it, I felt overwhelmed. Why do we need a book to explain to us in 216 pages how to make decisions? Making a life decision already becomes an anxiety-inducing moment, so why this book?
Not to discredit the author Steven Johnson, who’s done a great deal of research for his book, but it wasn’t working for me. I actually picked this book up because the person who recommended it to me works in a job where he has to take important decisions every day. This book helped him a lot, but me, no, I was getting anxious. “Oh Mansour, make sure to read that part where he actually uses an example from Pakistan. That’s such a rare thing to read in a book written by an American in the West.”
So I start reading this book with an open mind. It promises to tell me how to make better decisions in life. It aims to guide me to keep certain things in mind before making a decision. I am told the decisions the author wants to talk about are those life-changing decisions, such as marriage, moving houses, changing jobs, not decisions like whether I want chocolate or vanilla ice cream from Baskin Robbins. These are life-changing decisions that can affect lives, organizations, or civilizations! Yep, no pressure there!
He dives write in by giving us examples from the Collect Pond and Charles Darwin, which is referenced throughout the book so make sure to read this in its entirety. Come to page 17, The Compound, the author starts off by narrating the story about one Pakistani courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed who drove his van up to Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The idea he wants to discuss here is how the hard decision was made to raid the compound. Hard decision indeed.
Complex decisions involve multiple variables
Complex decisions require full-spectrum analysis
Complex decisions force us to predict the future
Complex decisions involve varied levels of uncertainty
Complex decisions often involves conflicting objectives
Complex decisions harbor undiscovered options
Complex decisions are prone to System-1 failing
Complex decisions are vulnerable to failure of collective intelligence
Now, you are telling me that complex decisions are all of the above. How am I not supposed to feel anxious when I have to think about my life-changing decisions from so many different angles?
The rest of the book is covered in chapters with titles like Mapping, Predicting, Deciding, The Glocal Choice, and The Personal Choice.
I mean, it’s not a badly written book and there are parts that made me have my a-ha moments. I like how he talks about how we should be taught how to make complex decisions in our classrooms, and I totally agree that this is a useful skill to have.
I am ready to give this book away. My line of work doesn’t involve me making lots of life-changing decisions. It was all right one time read for me.