Making Decisions: Guts vs Numbers

As I mentioned in a previous post, we (my family) are in the process of considering a move to another city, primarily because my wife is exploring other jobs, and this is an opportunity for us to move closer to family (what with a two year old and a second brewing in amniotic soup). But the decision to move is always a toughie, especially when you’ve become entrenched in a city as wonderful as Chicago. (Moving doesn’t mean leaving Inquirium, it just means expanding our sphere of operations from two cities to three.)

This was a perfect job for our own decision-making tool: SeeSaw.

Main SeeSaw Screen: Where should we move?

Our SeeSaw question was: Where should we live? We had four solutions:
1. Stay in Chicago
2. Move to Los Angeles
3. Move to San Diego
4. Move to the Bay Area

California is the target because that’s where all of our immediate family are.

It was really helpful to be able to talk through the individual criteria together as we created the list. For example, we started by listing “professional opportunities” as a generic criteria, but in working through the details, we realized that there were really multiple dimensions of professional opportunities: mine vs my wife’s, and current jobs-in-hand vs future job opportunities.

Ranking the importance allowed us to be able to articulate the relative importance of the criteria, e.g. being close to family and professional opportunities are both equally important, weather is less important. We had a slight difference of opinion about the importance of weather…if this were only me, I’d probably rate weather higher than the 4:Medium.

Evaluating all the solutions
Evaluating all the solutions: Bay Area

The cool thing about doing this with SeeSaw is that we always get confronted with a question of whether or not our stated preferences actually matches our gut feeling. As always happens when using SeeSaw, we found a few surprises. Given the criteria we were looking at, I totally expected “Move to San Diego” to come out on top. But instead “Staying in Chicago” came out on top, with a “Move to the Bay Area” coming in dead last.

The Bay Area was no surprise, given the ridiculous housing market, commute issues, and current lack of promising job leads. LA’s lackluster performance was no surprise either.

Evaluating 'Stay in Chicago'
Evaluating 'Move to San Diego'

But taking a closer look at San Diego vs Chicago revealed that the lack of real job opportunities in San Diego was probably the biggest strike against San Diego. Given that we just got a bite for a job there, if we bump up professional opportunities from Neutral to For (e.g. she gets the job), then San Diego would come out ahead, slightly edging out Chicago.

Evaluating 'Move to San Diego with Job'

Still, the fact that staying in Chicago surprisingly ranked so high is making us more carefully reflect on whether we actually want to move.

If you want to try out SeeSaw for yourself, check out our web site:

posted February 14, 2006 by ben

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