Ever had a complex decision to make ?
We all make decisions all the time. Right now I am making the decision to keep on writing on making decisions.
We make a lot of decision we are even not aware of, like scratching some place that itches, looking at something, laughing when someone thells a joke …
Than there are a lot of simple decisions. In a bar, pub : what should I drink? Beer ? Wine? Water ? Which shoes should I buy ? this ones or the other ones ?
And then there are the tougher ones,
like investing : should I sell or should I by some more stocks?
like buying a house : this one on the country, but far from public transportation, or that one in town ?
like having another child
like quitting your job for another one
And than there are also the really tough ones : like deciding which Software development tool to buy for a development department of 500 people.
For the simple ones the solution is also simple : decide on gut feeling. And if you cannot decide there are two options :
- it does not matter, for if you cannot decide it means the two choices are equal
- act as if you chose one of the options but focus on how you feel about missing the not-chosen one. Often a different feeling will show up depending on which one you did not chose, making it a lot more easy to choose.
Difficult decisions are … well … more difficult. But fortunately there are some tools or methods to help you out.
First there is what is called “even swap”.
The principle is the following :
- list all relevant criteria
- compare the value of each criterion between the possible choices
- eliminate criteria that are dominated by the others, and hence not really matter
- replace (“swap”) one characteristic for another one by giving them sort of an exchange rate whereby you feel that amount x of characteristic X has an equal worth of amount y of characteristic Y (“even swap”)
- if you keep on doing that, finally you will come up with only one characteristic and a value for choice 1 and another value for choice 2. This makes it easy to decide.
You can find a online software: smart-swaps that support the even swap process developed at the Systems Analysis Laboratory from the
Helsinki University of Technology and a powerpoint presentation about it.
The most elaborated is the Analytical hierarchy process
I will not go in detail about it but the basis is this : you do an top down decompositon of every characteristic that matters (ex.user interface, with at the underlying level : ease of use, artistic qualities, response times …). Than you (best seek agreement with a handfull of people) compare every bottom characteristic pairwise between each possible choice indicating if they are equal for that characteristic, if A is a bit, a lot, very much better or worse than B…).
For complex decisions it means a lot of work, but at the end, and with the nececessary mathematics you get a calculated solution that should be correct… if you did not forgot some characteristic.