Make tough decisions easier with a decision matrix


Originally published at:



To fully understand decisions, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme and figures of speech, then ask two questions:

  1. How artfully has the objective of the decision been rendered and

  2. How important is that objective?


That’s too hard.


The idea of decision matrices reminds of Douglas Adams. In the first Dirk Gently book he made fun of such things (they were briefly popular in the 1980s) because in reality what people want isn’t to rate possible decisions because that might mean they won’t pick the one they want. Instead, they want the opposite, one that would come up with reasons to score the one they want highly. He had a fictional computer program “Reason” to do that. I suspect the real program “Reason” (which is a music program unrelated to decision making) is named so in homage of this fictional program.


I am having a hard time telling if this is satire.


My decision making matrix is telling me to take over the earth and put my face on all the moniez.
With giant robots (both for taking over the world, and the group shot for the dolla bills).


I don’t think books should be 100,000 words. 400 pages? No, thanks.


Is an AI fixing the world’s traffic problems really more awesome than a haunted lunar base? It would be handy, sure, but there’s a limit to how much town planning I want in my fiction.


I prefer crop circles


A post on creative decision-making obligates me to mention Eno and Schmidt’s classic Oblique Strategies. Some of their suggestions are tuned more towards music (and with some creative interpretation, could work for other arts) but others are immediately applicable to writing a story:

Here’s an online version:


Seems to me like if’s a lot of work to convince yourself that you are making a rational decision when in fact it ends up being susceptible to subjective manipulation. You wanted to write about the haunted moon base to begin with, that much was obvious.


I think the benefit in cases like the example given is that it ends up, as you say, making your preferences obvious.

Is there any point going to huge lengths to try and fool yourself you’re being objective? No. 300 cells for a decision matrix strikes me as excessive especially for something which is clearly subjective and cannot be scored in any meaningful way.

But using a couple of laughably figleafed ‘objective’ measures to tease out your subconscious preference in cases where by definition you don’t have a strong favourite seems ok to me.

As long as you know that’s what you’re doing…

It is of course also good for being able to justify your decision to outsiders, for example when deciding on who gets a contract following a public tender.

Does it actually make the decision any less subjective? Maybe not, but you can at least point to something as setting out how you reached the decision rather than just saying, “I preferred this one”.

| no | no | no | no | no | no |
| no | no | no | no | no | no |
| no | no | no | no | no | no |
| no | no | no | no | no | no |
| no | no | no | no | no | no |
| no | no | no | no | no | no |


To small or too big?


That’s too big! Everyone thinks books need to be bricks nowadays. Rise, editors, and edit!


Nice article. Decision making can be really hard - I like your thoughtful approach. The matrix your proposed reminded me of a tool that I worked on: which provides frameworks for doing exercises just like this. In fact, if you want, we could add your approach to our list of “recipes”:



Oh seems just right; small enough to read in one day on the weekend, long enough to last a whole week of bedtime reading


Needs a “ask mom” section.