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Good Process + Good Information = Great Decisions

Learn how John solved his critical business decision, how Micah solved his high-stakes personal decision, and how Cheryl tackled a journalism investigation.

John                       Micah                      Cheryl

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Making a high-stakes professional decision: John

John Christopher heads the Oda Foundation, which provides basic healthcare services in rural Nepal. When the earthquake hit in 2015, John was faced with a unique opportunity because his organization was already on the ground. How could he best use this opportunity to immediately help more people, grow his organization and its impact in this time-sensitive moment?

His options as he saw them were threefold:

Path One: Open a second clinic to serve more patients.

Path Two: Partner with the Nepalese government.

Path Three: Use drones to deliver medical supplies.

The AREA Method provided John with a clear path to a decision that at first glance looked like the wrong one. When he began the process he was almost certain he was going to open a second clinic, but he wanted some evidence to support his decision and he needed a way to fundraise.

Using the AREA Method helped John successfully fundraise, but it did much more. It led him to a decision he didn’t expect. John found data that he didn’t think existed. That research led him to see that the option that looked easiest was the most problematic. The government option, which seemed to have only downside risk, turned out to be the best choice. John is partnering with the Nepalese government to provide health education in 36 clinics in the Kalikot region.

John’s Method:


Absolute Information – John looked at population and healthcare data from the Nepalese government.


Relative Information – John looked at articles and research reports about other rural health education programs to study campaigns that serve similar populations to Nepal’s.


Exploration – In Exploration John interviewed more lay leaders and local hospital personnel to better assess buy-in and budget projections for both options.

Exploitation – In Exploitation John used a Competing Alternative Hypothesis technique to make a surprising discovery that changed the direction of his decision.


Analysis – John used a Pre-Mortem technique that showed him that if he could not get sufficient community buy-in, his education campaign could fail. He developed a thoughtful action plan to locate lay leaders to serve as emissaries for his organization.

Click here to visit the ODA Foundation.

Making a high-stakes personal decision: Micah

Micah knew he wanted to pursue medicine and had already spent a summer working in a medical lab doing research.

18-year old Micah was deciding between two college options:

Path One: John Hopkins University, with no financial aid.

Path Two: University of Pittsburgh, where he was offered a full scholarship.

Micah and his parents were excited that he was admitted to a top university but wanted to make this high-stakes educational and financial decision carefully. As Micah researched the two institutions he realized that he didn’t have his heart set on a particular college, he had his heart set on getting into medical school. The AREA Method helped him identify his true goal and Micah chose the college option that would best support him through his pre med courses. The decision they ultimately came to surprised them all, Micah is attending the University of Pittsburgh.

Micah’s Method:


Absolute Information – Micah began by looking at the two Universities’ websites.


Relative Information – Micah investigated the professors and the classes he wanted to take.


Exploration – In Exploration, Micah spoke to students and professors at both programs.

Exploitation – Micah used the Competing Alternative Hypothesis exercise to realize that he had his heart set not on college but on getting into medical school.


Analysis – Since the AREA Method guided Micah to clearly articulate his undergraduate goals, he used a checklist technique to create an action plan outlining the steps he’d want to take once he arrived on campus.

Tackling a journalism investigation: Cheryl

I came across an article that the World Bank was funding a 5-star hotel in Ghana and that piqued my curiosity. How might that kind of luxury project further the World Bank’s mission of fighting poverty? Where could I go to gather information?

Cheryl thought the story could go one of two ways:

Path One: This project created jobs that lifted people out of poverty and spurred economic growth.

Path Two: This project was not in line with the World’s Bank mission and did not have a poverty-fighting impact.

The AREA Method led me to a third option that I hadn’t considered which is that the World Bank doesn’t actually know whether it’s fighting poverty or not. I could never have guessed this outcome. Following the AREA Method led me to write a piece of investigative journalism that deeply questioned the World Bank’s funding choices, data collection method, and compensation incentive system that had not been raised by other journalists.

Cheryl’s Method:


Absolute Information – Cheryl researched the World Bank’s documents for details about a data collection and impact measurement system.


Relative Information – Cheryl gathered information about companies that received World Bank loans. Many were large wealthy corporations.


Exploration – Cheryl conducted many interviews inside and outside the World Bank.

Exploitation – Cheryl used the Competing Alternative Hypotheses exercise to try to come up with other hypotheses that might disprove her emerging thesis.


Analysis – Before writing her final draft she wanted to make sure that she considered the Rule of Three. Cheryl reached out to executives in a variety of industries that received World Bank money and confirmed that they were all self-reporting their data.

Click here to read Cheryl’s final story.