calls under pressure
Keith Murnighan's new book shows readers how to make choices
they won't regret
big success, you often have to take a big risk.
that's where many people tend to clench up. They base their
decisions on fears, outside pressures or uninformed "gut"
instincts. Or they make no decision at all -- a choice which
in itself can be disastrous.
Professor Keith Murnighan has seen the fallout from such decisions.
Years of teaching and research on risk management have taught
him that there is a better way. He serves up this new approach
in his new book, The Art of High-Stakes Decision Making: Tough
Calls in a Speed-Driven World (John Wiley & Sons Inc.).
co-authored by John Mowen, a marketing professor at Oklahoma
State University, will be available in bookstores in October.
The book is structured around dozens of stories of high-stakes
decision-making. One highlights a young entrepreneur who must
decide whether to accept venture capital and expand his business
more quickly than he is comfortable doing. Another highlights
a doctor making life-or-death decisions for a patient away
from a hospital.
draws parallels between these on-the-job decisions and the
ones that occur in personal life: for example, whether to
get married, buy a house or have a child. "Everybody
makes high-stakes decisions, but most people only make them
intermittently," says Murnighan, the Harold H. Hines
Jr. Distinguished Professor of Risk Management.
makes these decisions so difficult is that there is usually
no clear-cut right answer -- except, perhaps, in hindsight.
Often, the information available on the choice is ambiguous,
the values it raises are in conflict and outside experts disagree
on the best course of action. And the heat is usually on to
make the decision immediately.
when decision makers should follow "SCRIPTS" --
the approach advocated by Murnighan in the book:
for signals of threats and opportunities
2. Find the Causes and generate possible solutions
3. Evaluate the Risks
4. Apply Intuition and emotion
5. Consider different Perspectives
6. Consider Time
7. Solve the problem
outlines each of the steps in greater detail in his book.
The underlying goal is to gain a handle on the surge of emotions
that tend to accompany important decisions. "People are
not rational decision-makers," he says. "They tend
to base their decisions on their feelings."
this, Murnighan highlights two key points from his book
do not make the decision right away. "People feel more
time pressure than necessary," Murnighan says. "Step
back and relax. You usually have lots of options, and there
are people you might want to consult to get more options.
You usually don't need to react immediately."
the decision. One way to do that is to jot down the key issues
involved. "If you don't write your thoughts down, information
can spin over and over in your head," Murnighan says.
"Ben Franklin recommended making a list of pros and cons,
and crossing one off from each column each day. A little bit
of structure goes a long, long way."
hopes for the book are ambitious: that readers learn its lessons
so well that the next time they face a high-stakes decision,
they will apply the steps intuitively. Their skill in doing
so will improve other areas of their lives too.
you can make your high-stakes decisions very well, you can
make your low-stakes decisions very well," Murnighan
says. "The converse is not necessarily true."