The Franklin Decision-Maker


In a letter to Joseph Priestly (the English scientist who discovered oxygen), Benjamin Franklin once commented about a perplexing decision that Priestly was wrestling with. Franklin wrote to his chemist friend that the problem of deciding was caused by the fact that our minds can’t examine both sides of an issue at one time.

To help solve the dilemma, Franklin shared that he often divided a sheet of paper into two columns and labeled one Pro and the other Con. Then in the course of three or four days, he would write in each column any arguments for that side.  By the end of the week, he had a clear picture of the issue and could make a decision easily.  Often the column with the longest list was the best decision.  Occasionally, though, one column would have an argument that carried more weight than all the arguments on the other side.  Either way, Franklin was able to evaluate both sides of the issue at once.

You’ve probably used this method to make decisions.  (If you are in sales, you’ve probably used it to close a sale.)  Remember it the next time you’ve got a particularly tough decision to make.

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Filed under Challenges, Decision Making, Problem Solving

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