Models for decision making

I like this introduction to decision making techniques at Creative Market.

"Some decisions appear to be relatively straight forward until you take a step back and look at the entire picture with a fresh perspective. You may notice that there are a variety of factors that actually impact a choice or decision that you did not notice before."

The post also features a nice mind map example from Learning Fundamentals focused on personal actions for reducing climate change impacts.

I find the iPad an ideal tool for mind mapping especially with the power of iThoughtsHD.


Dividing camels

The traditional teaching stories of the Sufi's are often intriguing. One of my favourites is known as Dividing Camels. I originally came across it in Idries Shah's book Thinkers of the East.

There was once a Sufi who wanted to make sure that his disciples would, after his death, find the right teacher of the Way for them.

He therefore, after the obligatory bequests laid down by law, left his disciples seventeen camels, with this order:

'You will divide the camels among the three of you in the following proportions: the oldest shall have half, the middle in age one-third, and the youngest shall have one-ninth.'

As soon as he was dead and the will was read, the disciples were at first amazed at such an inefficient disposition of their Master's assets. Some said, 'Let us own the camels communally,' other sought advice and then said, 'We have been told to make the nearest possible division,' others were told by a judge to sell the camels and divide the money; and yet others held that the will was null and void because its provisions could not be executed.

Then they fell to thinking that there might be some hidden wisdom in the Master's bequest, so they made inquiries as to who could solve insoluble problems.

Everyone they tried failed, until they arrived at the door of the son-in-law of the Prophet, Hazrat Ali. He said:

'This is your solution. I will add one camel to the number. Out of the eighteen camels you will give half--nine camels--to the oldest disciple. The second shall have a third of the total, which is six camels. the last disciple may have one-ninth, which is two camels. That makes seventeen. One--my camel--is left over to be returned to me.'

This was how the disciples found the teacher for them

Here is a sufi comic version from Arif & Ali's Blog

Dividing Camels


Doing one thing at a time

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time:

Excellent reminder from HBR to focus on doing one thing well

Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you're taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you're driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn't?

Well, sometimes… The post finishes with some suggestions for managers

  • Maintain meeting discipline
  • Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day
  • Encourage renewal ….It's also up to individuals to set their own boundaries.
  • Do the most important thing first in the morning
  • Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically
  • Take real and regular vacations 



Finding significance in a world of distraction

Really good material here from Becoming Minimalist.

Finding Significance in a World of Distraction

For example, the distraction of a lucrative and powerful career has the opportunity to distract us from using our talents to benefit our immediate community. The distraction of maintaining a large and perfect home may pull us from caring for the people living in it. The urge to check up on our Facebook friends steals more of our time than the friends right in front of us. And the opportunity to spend money on newer and trendier possessions may divert us from using it to accomplish a greater good in this world. In each case, the distraction keeps us from accomplishing a greater significance with our lives.

After calling out the challenge, a number of tools are offered including being mindful of the "culture we are swimming in", the importance of finding stillness through pausing and reflecting, seeking inspiration from role models and living with fewer possessions. A timely reminder as I was getting a bit caught up in the importance of getting an iPad 3! (Via Becoming Minimalist)


Diversify your dreams

Great post from HBR that calls out the danger of simplifying your dreams down to a narrow outcome that can setup a black and white success or failure scenario. One tool they describe to help avoid this is the "folder of gratitude"

Diversify Your Dreams

So how do you start moving from one dream to many? A practical tip I've seen work well is to develop a "folder of gratitude," a constantly-updated list of all the things in life you're grateful for. Chances are, many of the things on your list correspond neatly with your underlying passions. Then, take your list and amplify these passions with intelligent experiments. Test and invest in your areas of interest, and cultivate the joy of learning from failure



Looking for meaning by paying attention

This stimulating post from Art Markman at has a focus on Innovation.

It turns out that if you practice finding the meanings of proverbs, you can get better at finding the same kind of essential definitions of problems you are trying to solve. Describing problems in this way will help you retrieve the knowledge you have that is most likely to lead to innovative problem solutions.

Ultimately, the key to innovation is not to "think different," but rather, to think about different things. (Via

Beyond business innovation, paying attention to the meaning of the words we use and the cultural stories we retell is also a tool for deepening our understanding of the world around us. Many of us go though our daily routine in a somewhat robotic state with our actions being driven by habitual routines. This lack of attention is sometimes seen in the way we use words and proverbs without considering their original and often insightful deeper meanings.

Numerous esoteric disciplines feature exercises to help people look below the surface veneer of life by paying attention to multiple meanings of culturally common words, phrases and stories. For example - the Sufi's have a practise that aims to find seven levels of meaning inside traditional teaching stories. These are a somewhat like extended proverbs in the sense that they are usually involve folk lore characters and common situational contexts e.g. the Mulla Nasrudin stories. These stories are constructed to prompt the mind to seek the underlying message which is indirectly pointed to by the characters and plot.