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Three Simple Decision Making Tools

Sand for Your Inbox
August / September 2010

We make decisions all the time. Big ones, small ones, easy and tough. Making the right choice can be obvious, and sometimes it requires time invested in thought. Luckily we have simple tools to help.

(1) Pro & Con

First, the basic Pro and Con list. A list of the good and bad aspects of a particular choice.

If listing alone doesn’t help you make the decision, consider a Pro and Con list with scores.

(2) Scored Pro & Con

You can add a numerical weight of importance to your pro/con list. For example, a pro with a weight of 5 is more important than a pro (or con) of 1.

Scoring your list changes it from ‘which side has more thoughts’ to ‘which side is more critical.’ Add up your scores and see which side comes out stronger.

(3) PMI Method

A third way to examine choices is the PMI Method, invented by Edward de Bono. PMI is an acronym for Plus, Minus, Interesting. It takes the Scored Pro & Con a step further by forcing us to think about “what is interesting” about the choice.

  • Plus are the pros. What’s good about the idea.
  • Minus are the cons, the bad points of the idea. And finally,
  • Interesting. What is interesting? What are the possibilities?

This chart is especially handy when brainstorming and you have ideas that are not really a pro or a con. Rather, ideas interesting to think about. To calculate your PMI score add up your (Plus) + (Minus) + (Interesting) scores. Items in the “interesting” column can score as a plus or a minus depending on the implication of the thought.

In the example above, the plus score added up to +13, the minus -12, and the interesting column was +3. Added together this idea scores a +4.

While it is easy to think-up why we like or don’t like something, we don’t usually think about it from the perspective of what is interesting about the idea. Using PMI encourages exploration of possibilities that arise from thinking about it from three directions. It enlarges our view of the situation.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Take care,

Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox
Twitter: @IdeaSandbox

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