Most of our decision-making happens unconsciously. Our autopilot mode works wonders a lot of the time. But sometimes not-so-much. Moving our brains from automatic mode to contemplative or “let’s stop a moment and think about this” mode, can lead to better decisions and better outcomes.
Algorithms to Live By applies the lens of computer science to everyday life by providing concrete suggestions on how to solve specific problems. The suggestions or “human algorithms” infuse rigor to the decision-making process.
The authors introduce 11 practical, computer-science based “recipes for success” to tackle 11 different types of decisions we commonly make:
– Optimal Stopping/When to Stop Looking
– Explore-Exploit/The Latest vs. the Greatest
– Sorting/Making Order
– Cashing/Forget About It
– Scheduling/First Things First
– Bayes’s Rule/Predicting the Future
– Overfitting/When to Think Less
– Relaxation/Let it Slide
– Randomness/When to Leave It To Chance
– Networking/How We Connect
– Game Theory/the Minds of Others
The 37% Rule (When to Stop Looking), which asserts that you should devote about 1/3 or 37% of your time or resource on “looking” prior to “leaping” (say, on a new hire or a new apt), is so simple and brilliant that it has received a lot (most) of the attention. But there are several other handy guidelines. The chapter on Scheduling / Getting Things Done is great. We all have our preferred approaches for completing tasks but is the approach you’re using optimally aligned to the task and your priorities? You may walk away affirming your approach. Or you may walk away with an “aha.” In fact, there are several “aha” moments in Algorithms to Live By. In the end, I wanted a “One Page Cheat Sheet” summarizing the algorithms and applications so I created my own scrappy version.
Full disclosure: I’m familiar with the algorithms through prior studies so the book was a more of a (needed) refresher for me than anything. Although the writing style is highly conversational and engaging, some of the content could be a bit of a challenge for first-timers. But, even so, tackle it anyway! There’s just so much practical, goodness to get out of this book. I’ll read it again to ensure I digest everything.