Best Business Book Of 2016 (So Far At Least)

This has been a year of voracious reading for me. As of the end of August I have read 30 books. My favorite book, by far, this year has been “How Women Decide: What's True, What's Not and What Strategies Spark the Best Choices” by Therese Huston, a cognitive psychologist. Although I dislike the title (more on that later), I highly recommend this book to everyone. Decision making is a core competency that everyone needs to have and this book furthered my understanding in so many ways.

What I loved about this book was its foundation in solid research to answer questions or presumptions that we all have about decision making such as decisiveness, intuition, stereotyping and much more. There is so much data on decision making, and Huston brings it all together in a clear, cohesive manner.

I listened to this book on audio, but I was taking so many notes that I downloaded the ebook so I could make my notes in the book. There were so many “Aha” moments in it for me.

Huston goes right after the concept of “intuition” or “gut” and tears it apart. There is no evidence that women are more intuitive than men. In fact, intuition is much more job related than anything else. Some jobs create the right learning environment where someone can develop intuition.

This concept resonated with me in my role as an angel investor. We hear constantly that investors use their "gut" to pick investable companies, and often their gut leads them to invest in companies with all white male teams.

The science of decision making says that there are few environments where intuition should be trusted. The big takeaway for me was that intuition is best used when you have the right kind of learning environment. That requires that you get clear, quick feedback on your decisions, those decisions are made frequently and the outcome is objective. There were some great analogies like doing archery in the dark: Although you will get better at shooting an arrow, you won’t know how accurate you are. For someone to develop intuition, they need to have rapid, unbiased feedback.

Angel Investing is the opposite of this environment. We make decisions that can take years to come to fruition. So, no one should be basing decisions on “gut instincts” or intuition.

Other parts of the book weigh in on the biases that creep into job interviews and how we are conducting them all wrong. Even experienced interviewers don’t do it well. Huston writes how giving projects to people and having them simulate work product is the best. I know from working with my startups that this is now the default way they work to expand their teams. Giving someone a defined project to work on is the best way to test their fit with the company and the work. Every startup I know has made a bad hiring decision when based on a resume and series of interviews alone. Despite having experienced professionals interviewing, we were often caught off guard that things didn’t work out.

But the title. The book is about gender and decision making and is essential reading for anyone who cares about leadership development. One’s ability to make decisions is central to their career pathway as a leader. I am dismayed that many men will not read a book like this due to the title. I would not have read it either had I not heard the author interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts The Broad Experience with Ashley Milne-Tyte. At The Impact Seat, we think a lot about how different voices get heard above the din, and making book titles less gendered would be a way to help with that.

It seems to me that some women who write business books have their book skewed toward the female audience. Usually this happens in the marketing, such as the choice of title, cover design and more.

At The Impact Seat, we’re looking to change this. Stay tuned.

Barbara Clarke