If you tend to make snap decisions that come back to haunt you, Cheryl Strauss Einhorn has a solution. She’s the author of Problem Solved: A Powerful System for Making Complex Decisions with Confidence & Conviction (Career Press, April 2017). The book presents a smart system — the AREA Method — for making decisions when the stakes are high.
Einhorn is an award-winning investigative journalist. She first developed the AREA Method during her work as a reporter, and now teaches it to her students at Columbia University as well as her consulting clients. AREA stands for Absolute, Relative, Exploration/Exploitation, and Analysis. Each takes its own approach to mine the insights and incentives of others, and prevent any mental shortcuts.
One step builds to another, breaking the research process into a series of easy-to-follow activities that are recorded in a journal. Your research stays focused, and you never lose sight of the driving purpose behind your decision.
Problem Solved uses a cheetah’s hunting prowess for analogy: Einhorn describes how the animal, known for its exceptional hunting skill, can decelerate as quick as it accelerates. The AREA Method relies on the same principle of maneuverability, building in strategic stops, or “Cheetah Pauses,” that allow for direction changes. There are also “Cheetah Sheets” — workbook-style checklists to help organize data and ideas.
To demonstrate the method in action, the book takes us through four examples based on the author’s consulting clients. In one, the director of a health foundation in Nepal has to decide how to expand it. A son grapples with how to help his elderly parents downsize into better housing; a student is trying to decide which college to attend; someone else wants to change careers.
In each case, the AREA approach helped the decision-maker reach a successful outcome. In the Appendix are summaries of each client’s process, along with telling descriptions from the Nepalese foundation director’s AREA Journal.
The AREA Method helps ground decision-making in sound research and analysis, helping to avoid the pitfalls of cursory information and faulty assumptions. From covering pro and cons to eliminating the gray areas, we arrive at the best way to move forward with confidence. And, having become an expert in the entire ecosystem of an issue, we get the the added benefit of being able to explain it convincingly to others. There’s no more queasy second-guessing long after the fact. When Einhorn says, “Problem solved,” she means it. So will anyone who uses her method to make a big decision.
Learn more at Area Method.com.