Author: Francesca Gino
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press – 260 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

Sometimes I read the conclusion section of a book first before I begin to browse it. That is what I did with this one, and I will shortly share with you the nine basic principles the author outlines for you if you want to sick to your plan and stop getting derailed.

It happens quite often to most people, including most likely, you. My guess is that you are more likely than not, one of those people who makes a decision and comes up with a goal, formulates a plan (at least in your head) to accomplish it, and once you encounter a roadblock or a setback, abandons the goal.

What Francesca Gino shows you in this book is how to make well-thought out decisions based on research comprising of numerous studies that reveal human behavior relating to decision-making and follow through.

First, she writes that there are many forces that play strong roles in our decision-making process and our commitment and resolve to stick to our plan. There are basically three types of forces that derail our plan: forces from within ourselves, forces from our relationships with others, and forces from the outside.

She writes that these forces have powerful and predictable effects on our decisions. But very often we say to ourselves that we know ourselves well and what is going on in our heads. We also believe we know others well enough and that they will work with us to accomplish our commonly-agreed upon objectives. And certainly we cannot know what outside forces will affect the outcome of our plan.

If we knew of all these forces, why did our past decisions and the actions we took (or the lack thereof) lead to failure? In this book, Ms. Gino shares with us the results of research projects she undertook over a period of ten years that focused precisely on those three kinds of forces that get us sidetracked knowingly and unknowingly, and how we avoid the derailment. For no reason except to learn the findings of those research studies, it is worth it to get this valuable book.

So here are Francesca Gino’s nine principles to learn and know by heart, if you are committed to: Sticking to Your Plan – the title of her concluding chapter:

  1. Raise your awareness
  2. Take your emotional temperature
  3. Zoom out
  4. Take the other party’s point of view
  5. Question your bonds
  6. Check your reference points
  7. Consider the source
  8. Investigate and question your frame
  9. Make your standards shine

To learn in depth what these principles mean and how to successfully utilize them, I urge you to get this book.

This is a well-organized book with just three parts in it, each one dealing with the three types of forces that affect our thinking and behavior with respect to making decisions, designing a plan, and sticking to it. Once you read this book and learn closely about these forces, you will create a workable plan that avoids the built-in traps that creep in when you are unaware of the power of these forces.

In each of the three parts in this book, the author relates three narratives, for a total of nine. As you know, lessons are more easily learned with story-telling. That is why this book is such a pleasure to read.

For example, in the first narrative in Part 1 entitled Better than Mother Teresa, the author describes a television game in Italy entitled Affari Tuoi, which means “Your Business.”

In it, contestants have to make decisions on 20 boxes of various unknown money values. One of the boxes always has a value of 500,000 Euros or about $630,000. The game goes on asking a contestant whether to keep a box with an unknown prize in it, trade it for one of 19 other prizes, or accept an offer from a virtual bank. The contestants are allowed to seek advice from the audience before making decisions.

A comprehensive study of the financial outcomes of the various contestants on this TV game showed that invariably, those who sought and followed the advice of the audience always ended up with more money than those who did not exercise this option available to them.

The author points out various instances in real life as well, that when executives did not follow the advice of their associates in the companies they worked, losses, sometimes devastating ones, have incurred. The most significant example she points out of financial loss is that of Freddie Mac.  This is an excellent book. Get it as if your life depended on it.