Ben Franklin Close – remember that?

I’m on a Dan Pink “radio over the phone” right now and am hearing about Dan and Chip Heath (ala Swtich – my fav business book) talk about their new book called Decisive.  In the introduction to the book they mention something I’ve talked to you about for years which I learned at the Ben Franklin Close…. and thought I’d share it with you.

I learned it a bit more simply, but interesting to see it in Ben Franklin’s own words:

In 1772, Benjamin Franklin was asked for advice by a colleague who’d been offered an unusual job opportunity. Franklin re- plied in a letter that, given his lack of knowledge of the situation, he couldn’t offer advice on whether or not to take the job. But he did sug- gest a process the colleague could use to make his own decision. Franklin said that his approach was “to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns, writing over the one Pro and over the other Con.” During the next three or four days, Franklin said, he’d add factors to the two columns as they occurred to him. Then, he said:
When I have thus got them all together in one view, I endeavour to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a reason Pro equal to some two reasons Con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons Con equal to some three reasons Pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of farther consideration nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly. [Capitalization modernized.]

Franklin called this technique “moral algebra.” Over 200 years after he wrote this letter, his approach is still, broadly speaking, the approach people use when they make decisions (that is, when they’re not trusting their guts). We may not follow Franklin’s advice about crossing off pros and cons of similar weight, but we embrace the gist of the process. When we’re presented with a choice, we compare the pros and cons of our op- tions, and then we pick the one that seems the most favorable

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