Important decisions include multiple, sometimes competing factors. A tradeoff is the giving up of one thing in return for another. Just about every complex decision requires that you accept having less of one thing in order to get more of something else.
Ben Franklin’s trade-off tool
Ben Franklin’s tradeoff tool provides a simple, intuitive way to weigh tradeoffs. Create two vertical columns, one labeled “Pros” and one “Cons.” Brainstorm the two lists. Then pair an item or items from each list with an item or items of equal weight from the other list. These similarly weighted combinations of pros and cons cancel each other out. In the sample graphic, the pros outweigh the cons in the tradeoff “algebra.” No need for a more sophisticated tool to make the decision. The methodology could be taught to a young child.
Visualizing trades in a decision matrix
The beauty of a decision matrix is that you can easily manage the tradeoff analysis because you can see where the tradeoffs are.
The matrix above displays the final results of assessing three colleges against a set of weighted criteria. The cells with the red border represent the highest score on each criterion. The “Total Benefit” is the sum of the weighted scores. As you can see, the matrix helps to clarify the decision’s specific tradeoffs by individual criterion.
These results might lead a family to decide to select Syracuse because it has the highest Total Benefit score and scores highest on three criteria: Distance, Clubs and Food. However, the tradeoffs are also clear. Delaware is superior on two criteria: Social Life and Facilities. Temple, on one: Major. The decision framework creates clarity: by selecting Syracuse, the family achieves the greatest Total Benefit but gives up on superior Facilities, Social Life and Major.
The challenge of any complex decision is how to clarify, manage and evaluate the tradeoffs. Ben Franklin’s tradeoff tool and a decision matrix each complete the task in different ways. How do you manage trades in your decision-making?