How to Use Even Swaps to Make Better Decisions in 3 Steps

Sometimes all options seem equally good. What to do now?

Next time you face a tough decision, try Even Swaps.

Even swaps “normalize” your different decision criteria so you can compare them. This lets you make tradeoffs more easily.

Here is how.

Let’s use an example:

Should I buy car 1 or car 2?

First, I define my decision criteria:

My objectives, and hence my decision criteria, are:

  • Horsepower

  • Design

  • Cargo space

  • Fuel consumption

  • Special features

  • Price

Secondly, I compare the two cars along these criteria:

Car 1

Car 2

Horsepower

100

130

Design

5/10

7/10

Cargo space

500L

350L

Fuel consumption

8L/100km

12L/100km

Special features

6/10

7/10

Price

50k

60k

Third, I make tradeoffs with even swaps:

The idea of even swaps is to simplify the decision by getting rid of decision criteria.

To make an objective obsolete, you must ensure that both alternatives are equally good.

For example, to drop horsepower, both options must be equally good.

You ask:

What increase in cargo space would compensate for a reduction in 30 horsepower?

You come up with 100L, which would make up for 30 horsepower less.

Hence, the new table looks as follows:

Car 1

Car 2

Horsepower

100

100

Design

5/10

7/10

Cargo space

500L

450L

Fuel consumption

8L/100km

12L/100km

Special features

6/10

7/10

Price

50k

60k

You just made an even swap to make the decision easier.

You continue:

Looking at design, you figure that 2 points less in design would be compensated by 50L of extra cargo space.

You adjust the table again:

Car 1

Car 2

Horsepower

100

100

Design

5/10

5/10

Cargo space

500L

500L

Fuel consumption

8L/100km

12L/100km

Special features

6/10

7/10

Price

50k

60k

Now that design and cargo space are equal for both alternatives, you can drop them both.

This leaves you with three more decision criteria. The decision becomes clear:

Car 2 is better only in terms of special features. And that’s only 1 point.

Considering the price and fuel consumption, your better choice is obvious.

You decide to buy car 1.

Easy peasy.

Here is a challenge: Apply an even swap to your next decision.

Let me know how it goes.

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Talk soon,

Alex