The pros-and-cons list is a popular decision-making tool, but is it really the best choice when you’re trying to make a high-stakes decision? Executive Coach Chris Charyk ponders this question in a recent Harvard Business Review post, listing the pros and cons of making a pros-and-cons list.

The Pros

  • Making a list helps you think through all possible pros and cons of a given course of action, minimizing the likelihood that critical factors have been missed.
  • The time and effort of creating a list helps to dissipate and distance any powerful emotions about the decision.
  • As a tool, the list is easily understood, requires no special computational or analytical expertise, and is simple to administer.

The Cons

  • The simplicity of the pros-and-cons list leaves it open to cognizant biases, such as the framing effect, a bias created by overly constraining the set of possible outcomes, and the overconfidence effect, or the tendency to overestimate the reliability of your judgments.
  • Listing emphasizes the objective, “just the facts” side of decision-making rather than intuition or “gut feel.” Charyk notes findings that intuition may result in decisions with better outcomes than those derived from the use of analytical tools.

What’s Charyk’s verdict on the issue? See his full HBR post, “The Pros and Cons of Pros-and-Cons Lists.”