Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke – A Visual Summary

Today I’m diving into Annie Duke’s book “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.” Let’s unpack some of my favorite concepts.

Annie Duke’s background as a professional poker player and graduate student in cognitive psychology gives her a unique perspective on decision-making, especially under uncertainty. She likens decisions to a tree, where the trunk represents the past, the present is the decision point, and the branches are the potential outcomes. It’s not just about making one choice, but recognizing the multitude of possible futures stemming from it.

Take, for instance, Pete Carroll’s infamous call of a pass play in the 2015 Super Bowl. Sure, it resulted in an interception and a lot of criticism. But Duke teaches us not to focus solely on the outcome. There were multiple potential outcomes—some good, some bad. It’s about understanding probabilities and realizing that every decision is a bet.

One common mistake? “Resulting.” Just because an outcome is bad doesn’t mean the decision was. Another pitfall is “hindsight bias,” where we believe the singular outcome was inevitable. Duke encourages us to challenge these biases and embrace a more nuanced view of decision-making.

That’s where learning pods come in. Think of them as truth-seeking groups where you analyze decisions with honesty and objectivity. Robert Merton’s “CUDOS” framework guides these discussions, emphasizing data sharing, universal evaluation standards, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism.

But it’s not just about group dynamics. Mental time travel is a powerful tool you can use individually. Imagine having a chat with your past self—who’s seen a thing or two—and your future self, who’ll have to live with the consequences. It’s like Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic bit on Night Jerry versus Morning Jerry, present desires versus future regrets.

Let’s talk strategy. Backcasting helps us plan for positive outcomes, while a pre-mortem prepares us for the worst. It’s about proactive decision-making and being ready to respond, no matter what life throws your way.

Ultimately, Duke teaches us to embrace uncertainty. The outcomes we face in life are a mix of luck and skill, and every decision is a gamble. By adopting a probabilistic mindset, collaborating with others, and considering past experiences and future consequences, we can make better choices.

If you’re intrigued by what we’ve discussed here, I highly recommend diving into Duke’s book.

And if you’re interested in improving your visual communication skills, that’s something I can help with!

Happy decision-making,