I've been reading a bit about early-american statesman Benjamin Franklin this week. Apparently Benny-boy was a pretty big deal. A founding father of the US-of-A, he was a musician, theorist, general agitator, and an all round pretty handy guy to have around. One of his real talents was coming up with a truckload of inventions. Just to be clear, I said truckload not that other word I tend to say when I am excited.
It turns out one of his legacies, alongside cool stuff like bifocal glasses and zapping some poor child's kite with lightning, was the first celebrated pros and cons list. Yep, he's the one...I'm not going to bore you with the details, but in a letter in 1772 to his peep Joseph Priestly* he detailed how he went about his decision-making process. If you're a history buff, you can read a littlemo' here
So I am guessing Priestly didn't exactly take a vow of silence (ha! geddit?) and before long the Pros and Cons list became more popular than a One Direction concert at a Westfield Shopping Center in a school holidays. And boy oh boy haven't we used the old P&C list to death...
* Wanna decide where to go on the next holiday...do a pros and cons.
* Can't make a decision on if you should buy that new day-bed? draw a line, label your pros and cons, and get to work!
* Having trouble over whether you should put Nanna into a retirement home...pro and con the bejesus out of it! Yeah!
But there's one problem. It's a pretty big problem actually...
Pros and Cons lists don't actually work very well. Along with Maccas Cafe and Starbucks** it just might be the worst gift those kooky Americans ever bestowed on the world.
You see, P&C lists tend to narrow our frame of thinking and also cultivate confirmation bias.
By creating a P&C we tend to get specific about the issue but in doing so cut out a multitude of cool options. And whaddya reckon goes into the two columns? Everything we want to go on there, rather than everything that should go on there.
So ditch the pros and cons list and try the following for better decision-making;
1. Widen your scope rather than narrow it - forget about either/or frameworks and think in terms of and/possibility thought patterns.
2. Don't give in to your pre-determined thoughts - think of the absurd and ask the counterintuitive questions. What if there were no blades on a fan or there was only one button on a phone? These types of questions change our world.
It's time for me to find something for lunch...hmmm, decisions, decisions.
Alison couldn't contribute to this weeks post...she was online shopping for shoes. Turns out she doesn't use any method for decision making other than 'they're pretty'.
Jason was trying to make his own decision this week; it's a biggie. Whether he should enter the grown up world. Yep, he's looking at houses to buy...yikes!
Jen has been deciding on whether her session with a clairvoyant is tax deductable
Dougs' only decision needed this week was exactly how many minions he needed to do his design work so he could surf full time.
Sean and Joe...most likely they're probably drinking terrible coffee at Starbucks :) You'd think as Canadian's they could do better.
*Turns out bromances have been around for a while, eh
**We tend to engage in unashamed coffee snobbery at Pragmatic Thinking...at least the 'cultured' ones of us do.