Rutul Davé

The Decision Multiverse in pop culture

The Decision Multiverse in pop culture

Annie Duke’s How to decide is a great workbook for anyone looking to learn, refine, or enhance their decision making skills. The Decision Multiverse is one of the tools that Ms. Duke identifies as a useful technique to avoid our bias of always associating the outcome of a decision with the quality of the decision.

In its simplest form, The Decision Multiverse is a method to visualize the full range of possible outcomes from a decision. For example, in order to better evaluate the quality of a past decision, you can use a simplified Decision Tree to put the actual outcome in its proper context alongside all other outcomes that could have happened but did not happen.

Having the discipline to do this for all outcomes, good or bad, we are able to address one of our biases when it comes to decision making - our willingness to examine outcomes is often asymmetrical. We’re inclined to put bad outcomes in context rather than good ones.

I was reminded of the use of a very simple form of The Decision Multiverse in a recent episode (Season 6, Episode 3) of the popular Showtime show Billions. Without giving away any spoilers, one of the characters played by Asia Kate Dillon is discussing the result of her proposal for a deal not working out as she expected. She and the character played by Maggie Siff had made a decision to offer what in their perspective was a fair deal that the other side would have accepted. The accepted deal would have resulted in an outcome they anticipated. However, what played out was a different set of events, starting with the other side not accepting their offer, which led to a different outcome which Asia Kate Dillon’s character had not thought about.

This example of counterfactual thinking, especially when the outcome is not in our favor (i.e. bad), is a great decision making discipline to have. Our willingness to examine outcomes is often asymmetrical and a bias that gets in the way of being better decision makers. We’re inclined to put bad outcomes in context rather than good ones. To become a good decision-maker, you need to put outcomes into perspective (whether they’re good or bad).