Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Making Decisions

Ever since childhood, I've always had a difficult time deciding - for every pro, I'd counter with a con, for every positive there would be a negative, and I'd get fed up, switch sides, and it would happen all over again. 
I tried the list-the-pros-and-cons methods, but as you can guess, that was a brilliant exercise in creativity and self-justification and paper usage, but not much good as a decision-maker. 

Finally, I resorted to a technique I'd learned over 2 decades ago in class 6 maths. 
Weighed scores. 
And made a revolutionary discovery. 


  • List your choices down
  • Assign attributes
  • Assign weights to those attributes
  • Score each attribute 
  • Calculate the weighed scores
  • Add up the weighed scores
  • Sort by total score. 
Obviously, Google and Excel make this a lot easier. You can add on a lot of other stuff - looks (which I've realized tends to play a fairly significant veto role in decisions), brand name, etc - but ultimately, it boils down to how many attributes you identified, and if you got the information you needed for each one. 
The revolutionary bit, is that this not only lists down the decision, but also lists at the same time every possible justification you had for it, every possible choice you considered, what you felt was important, and how each compared to the others. Numerically. 
It also breaks down the task into clearly defined, simple, nibble-sized routine activity. Feature searches. Data entry. Formula building. Scoring. 
No big decisions, no brain-freezing infinite chaos of swirling possibilities. 
At any point, you can pause the decision-making by saving and come back exactly where you left off. 
It's... zen. There's no emotion struggling against logic, no tsunami hammering on an unprotected coastline. It's the order and quiet of a Japanese garden, a Roman irrigation system, currents through a semiconductor chip. It doesn't knock the emotion out of the decision, but instead channels it, into exactly where it is most appropriate and most useful - in assigning scores and weights. The rest, it's just maths. 
And if you don't like the end result, argue with the logic - and with a few quick changes, edit the scenario to match. It's not cheating, it's intuitive systemization. A large, complex system can go haywire with a small mistake; but that is clearly felt in the results, and can be traced to exactly why
There's no cognitive dissonance, no buyer's paradox. It presents you with a fait accompli, with an opportunity to change before you actually swipe the card. 
Heck, it even gives you a sorted, prioritized list of options!

And I've realized, it can be applied to any comparative decision. The only thing that limits yo, is the attributes - or possibilities - that you've considered. 


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