Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most

Farsighted by Steven Johnson

Plenty of books offer useful advice on how to get better at making quick-thinking, intuitive choices. But what about more consequential decisions, the ones that affect our lives for years, or centuries, to come? Our most powerful stories revolve around these kinds of decisions: where to live, whom to marry, what to believe, whether to start a company, how to end a war.

Full of the beautifully crafted storytelling and novel insights that Steven Johnson’s fans know to expect, Farsighted draws lessons from cognitive science, social psychology, military strategy, environmental planning, and great works of literature. Everyone thinks we are living in an age of short attention spans, but we’ve actually learned a lot about making long-term decisions over the past few decades. Johnson makes a compelling case for a smarter and more deliberative decision-making approach. He argues that we choose better when we break out of the myopia of single-scale thinking and develop methods for considering all the factors involved.

There’s no one-size-fits-all model for the important decisions that can alter the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. But Farsighted explains how we can approach these choices more effectively, and how we can appreciate the subtle intelligence of choices that shaped our broader social history.

Author: Steven Johnson | Publisher: Riverhead

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4/5

I read Farsighted as part of my subscription to the Next Big Idea Club. It was fun to have it paired with Joyful, which was about the small things, because Farsighted is about the big things. Big, important decisions and the ways you can ensure that you’re making the best choices possible.

The information was presented in a straightforward, digestible way, with plenty of engaging examples that Johnson told like stories. He also had a couple of big examples — like Obama’s team’s mission to find and kill Osama Bin Laden — that were threaded throughout the entire book, which tied it all together nicely.

I also appreciated the fact that Johnson gave readers not only the tools to make good decisions, like a pre- or post-mortem and AARs, but also the why behind them. He cites so much research about the benefits of diverse thinking, what kinds of groups make good decisions and what kinds don’t, etc. It’s so important to talk about those topics and keep them at the forefront of our minds.

All in all, not totally life-changing, but a good, quick read.

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