It’s been noted that the highway of life is filled with flat squirrels that couldn’t make a decision. The small decisions are fairly easy to make, as their outcomes don’t really impact our lives that much. But the big decisions–the ones that can change the course of our lives–those are hard and thus, are often postponed. The Comparative Valuation technique will help you be decisive in a methodical, logical way, especially if you are working with others to achieve a collective intent.

Comparative Valuation

When you have to decide on a possibility that will yield the important results, consider Comparative Valuation, a technique that begins with a reduction of choices from a brainstormed list of ten possibilities. Those choices are then compared, one to every other one.

Begin by listing the ten possible options or proposed solutions to a given problem.





5. __________________

6. __________________

7. __________________

8. __________________

9. __________________

10. ___________________

Then compare the first item in the list to the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth.

It will help if you have a simple diagram like this, for each of the ten choices. (If you are working in a group, have each person go through the comparison process by him- or herselfself, circling the one choice that he or she prefers over the other with each comparison.) Obviously, you wouldn’t compare choice number 1 with itself; so, you’d start the comparisons with #1 versus #2.)

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Ask yourself which of the two possibilities–#1 or #2 is slightly better and then circle the preferred number-choice. Go on to compare #1 to #3 and circle the choice that each person feels has a slight edge over the first choice.

Continue with the process. This time, though, you’ll be comparing choice #2 to the other choices. (Again, you wouldn’t compare it to itself, nor would you compare it to choice #1, as you already did this in the first iteration of the process.) The diagram would look like this, allowing you to circle the choice that you prefer, in each comparison.

2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The third choice will next be compared to all the remaining choices, with the idea that you think is better—even if only slightly so—encircled.

3 3 3 3 3 3 3

4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Continue in this fashion until you get to the 10th choice, which by now, will have already been compared to the other nine.

10. __________________

The encircled selections are then counted—there should be 45 in all. If the decision is being made by more than you alone, count the collective number of encircled choices. This tabulation will yield the “Popularity” vote, which is duly recorded. (This is the most time-consuming step and one that should be done carefully.)

Next, the problem-solver(s) assigns an Optimization percent to each of the ten choices. In other words, ask yourself (and others, if this is a group effort), “To what extent is this possibility already being implemented?” If it’s in effect and working well, the choice might garner a score of 100%. If it’s never been tried or if it’s implemented but is not succeeding, it might earn a score as low as 10%. (If the problem is being studied by a team, averages would be obtained for each choice at this stage.)

The Worth assessment comes next. Each of the ten ideas is evaluated in terms of how valuable it is and a number (10 = high; 1 = low) is assigned. (Again, if a team is considering these options, an average would be calculated for each of the ten items.)

The next stage of the Comparative Valuation process asks you to draw a grid with four quadrants: Low Optimization, Low Worth; Low Optimization, High Worth. The lower two quadrants are High Optimization, Low Worth; and High Optimization, High Worth. The X-axis on your grid would incrementally reflect the worth-values, from 1 to 10 on a horizontal line. On the Y- or vertical axis, you would write the Optimization percentages incrementally, starting with 10% at the top and ending with 100% at the bottom.

The numbers are then plotted on the grid. Those choices with the highest worth and lowest optimization are the ones most likely to succeed. (Note that the final choices are not usually the same the popularity choice determined earlier.) Decisions based on this kind of analysis, almost always, are more valid than those made by a majority-rule vote.

Squirrel this one away

While squirrels are mocked for being indecisive in the middle of the road, they do have other admiral behaviors–chief among them, their present preparation for future eventualities. The Comparative Valuation technique is one you should squirrel away for future decisions that will seriously impact your life.


This article is based on Driving Mr. Albert: 365 Einstein-Inspired Brain Boosts, to be released later this year by HRD Press. You can reach the author at [email protected].


  • Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60+ books, the most recent of which ("Applying Mr. Einstein") will be released by HRD Press in 2020. You can reach her at [email protected].