September 14, 2018

I just finished Farsighted, a book about decision-making.

I learned a few things, particularly the value of structuring big decisions into explicit map-predict-decide phases, and why it helps to read fiction.

But what surprised me most, was how much of this apparently "new" stuff, is standard operating procedure in tech companies. A few examples:

  • Written opinions before discussion. It's too easy to get swayed by what louder / higher-status / more charismatic people think, when discussing a decision. The better strategy, which was drilled into me at Microsoft (for interviews), insists that each participant write down an independent assessment of the situation before discussing it, to maintain fidelity to his original opinion of things.
  • A lot of the impact/risk analysis came from Google's autonomous vehicle project.
  • "Linear value mapping" is intuitive to anyone who's studied linear algebra, or optimization: treat a decision as a bunch of factors, weight them, and score the outcome based on the summed product of the weights and how well each decision performs against each factor
  • The benefits of diversity in decision-making

I agree with Johnson that decision-making should be taught explicitly in schools. Not only is it an important life skill, but it cuts across many disciplines—stats, psychology, economics, history, literature—onramps into other "pointless" areas, where the applications aren't initially clear.

Maybe this is why I've always found investment decision-making so captivating; there are few things as refreshingly broad.

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