Use this simple comparison tool to, uhh, compare stuff.
Here’s what I woke up thinking about at 4AM this morning:
When faced with the choice between an apple and an orange—or any number of somewhat dissimilar options—what simple algorithm might be used to facilitate a rational decision?
(Weird, right? It’s just the way my brain works. Be glad you’re you.)
As an example, say you’re on a road trip. You’re the driver and it’s time for a snack. Here are your options:
Assuming you only get to pick one snack, how might you consider which is best? Well, I’m happy to say, I’ve figured it out!*
Step One – Establish Criteria
We must first decide what attributes are important. In this context (driving a car) I’ve come up with the following criteria:
- Tasty – I definitely want to eat something I like.
- Lack of Preparation – Because I need hands on the wheel; eyes on the road.
- Easy to Eat – Same as above. Plus, I don’t want to get yucky.
- Tidiness – I don’t want crumbs all over or food spilling between the seat and the console.
- Healthy – There’s no sense gaining a few more pounds before I get to my destination!
Step Two – Assign Weights
In any decision, some criteria are more important than others, so let’s rank them. To keep things simple, we’ll use a three-point scale and the following rule:
Total the number of your criteria, then distribute that number as “preference points”—zero, one or two—to each of the criteria, where
- “2” means it’s very important
- “1” means it’s somewhat important
- “0” means it’s of little importance.
(You must use all the points.)
With a total of five Snack criteria, here’s how I rated mine:
- Tasty = 2 (This is the most important attribute!)
- Lacks Prep = 1
- Easy to Eat = 1
- Tidiness = 0 (This is least important; I can tidy up the car when I get there.)
- Healthy = 1
Step Three – Score Each Option
Our goal is to assess each option’s rating across our criteria—both positively and negatively—and pick the one that rates highest overall. To do that we’ll begin with a neutral baseline of “average” and determine whether each option exceeds or falls short for the various criteria. Here’s how.
For each option:
- Draw a horizontal line and write your weighted criteria above it.
- Rate each criterion by placing an “x” above, on or below the line, where:
- Above = Positive – The option rates above average for this criteria.
- On = Neutral – The option rates about average.
- Below = Negative – The option rates below average.
- Eliminate any “deal breakers”—options that fall “below the line” for criteria with a weight of 2. (There’s no point in considering options that fail to meet your most desired criteria.)
- Multiply by each criterion’s weight to score each rating:
- If the “x” is above the line, multiply the criterion’s weight by +1.
- If it’s on the line, multiply the criterion’s weight by 0.
- If it’s below the line, multiply the criterion’s weight by -1.
- Lastly, sum the scores for the option’s Total Score.
Here’s how my snack comparison added up, starting with the apple:
- I love apples, so Tasty scores 2 points.
(Tasty weight of 2 multiplied by positive rating of 1)
- They need no Preparation, so 1 point here.
(Prep weight of 1 multiplied by positive rating of 1)
- Apples are Easy to eat, but they can get a little sticky down at the core, so I gave it a neutral rating for this criterion; 0 points.
(Easy weight of 1 multiplied by neutral rating of 0)
- As for Tidiness, I can throw the core out the window (into the tall grass, where bugs will eat it) and avoid messing up my car, but this criterion had a weight of 0, so no points here.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away. One more point for Healthy.
As you can see, the apple gets a Total Score of 4. Now how about the rest?
Step Four – Highest Score Wins!
In The Event Of A Tie
- Whichever option presented the most “2s”
- Whichever option had the fewest “-1s”
- If you have more than one criterion with a “2” weight, determine a “super criterion” and select the option that exceeds therein.
- Still can’t decide? Just flip a coin; statistically speaking, it might be your best solution.
Now You Know
So, the next time somebody scoffs at the ability to compare apples and oranges, you can say with confidence: “I know how to do that!”