Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Harv Bus Rev. 1998 Mar-Apr;76(2):137-8, 143-8, 150.

Even swaps: a rational method for making trade-offs.

Author information

  • 1Center for Telecommunications Management, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA.


Making wise trade-offs is one of the most important and difficult challenges in decision making. Needless to say, the more alternative you're considering and the more objectives you're pursuing, the more trade-offs you'll need to make. The sheer volume of trade-offs, however, is not what makes decision making so hard. It's the fact that each objective has its own basis of comparison, from precise numbers (34% versus 38%) to relationships (high versus low) to descriptive terms (red versus blue). You're not just trading off apples and oranges; you're trading off apples and oranges and elephants. How do you make trade-offs when comparing widely disparate things? In the past, decision makers have relied mostly on instinct, common sense, and guesswork. They've lacked a clear, rational, and easy-to-use trade-off methodology. To help fill that gap, the authors have developed a system-which they call even swaps-that provides a practical way of making trade-offs among a range of objectives across a range of alternatives. The even-swap method will not make complex decisions easy; you'll still have to make hard choices about the values you set and the trades you make. What it does provide is a reliable mechanisms for making trades and a coherent framework in which to make them. By simplifying and codifying the mechanical elements of trade-offs, the even-swap method lets you focus all your mental energy on the most important work of decision making: deciding the real value to your company of different courses of action.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk