Introducing the Problem Solved Podcast: How A Banker Used AREA To Plan His Honeymoon

How are you using the AREA Method to make your big decisions better? This month, I’m launching the Problem Solved Podcast, containing a series of interviews with people who are using AREA for both personal and professional decisions. You’ll hear them explain what decision they were making, why they chose to use AREA, and how it went: what worked and what didn’t.

The first podcast is a sit-down with Kevin, a banker at Goldman Sachs, who used AREA to decide what kind of a honeymoon to plan –that’s right: his honeymoon!

Why use an analytic system to make a decision on something that, at first blush, is meant to be about passion? Isn’t that, well, unromantic?

Kevin says AREA made sense to him because planning a honeymoon is a complex decision. It’s:

A bigger, more expensive and more emotionally significant vacation than others; It’s the first vacation as a new family. It comes at a time when you are already spending a lot of money and making many other big decisions in planning a wedding. It’s supposed to be fun–it may sound counter-intuitive but the high expectations going into a honeymoon make it even more important that you’ll be thoughtful and deliberate about planning.

As a result, planning a honeymoon is “deceptively challenging,” as Kevin says, because it’s laden with some of the biases that AREA seeks to overcome. For example:

While vacations are fun, arranging enjoyable vacations takes more time and effort than we believe (Planning Fallacy)
We remember vacations as fun adventures but in retrospect tend to forget the challenges of planning them (Narrative Bias) Well-meaning advice is offered from others under the assumption that everyone shares the advice-giver’s preferences (Projection Bias)

So how did Kevin frame his decision of success and use AREA’s inversion? He and his bride-to-be, Alexandra, knew they wanted to travel to South Africa, but weren’t sure how to balance lion-gazing with lying in the sun. Kevin says he began by identifying two Critical Concepts about the honeymoon:

1. It needed to include both adventure and time to relax
2. It needed to stay within the constraints of the time he and his bride could take off from work and the budget they could devote to the vacation

Click here to listen to Kevin’s AREA decision journey.

Here’s a snapshot of how Kevin put the couple’s honeymoon planning through the AREA steps:

Absolute:

Kevin researched the websites of specific resorts to help him understand how they present themselves. How it helped: The website experience is designed to be representative of the actual vacation experience. Resorts come out and tell you what they are such as “the launch pad of adventures” or “a secluded locale.”

What went well: “We were able to really drill down on costs up-front to understand which resorts were truly comparable.”
What didn’t go well: “Something we did not do but should have: actually compared some of the underlying numbers: the number of rooms per hotel, the ratio of guests to staff, etc.”

Relative:

Kevin did a literature review of what industry sources and the media reported about the resorts and hotels he’d researched in Absolute.

What went well: “There is actually a ton of high-quality Relative data out there for travelers: websites like TripAdvisor do an excellent job collecting information.” What didn’t go well: “The key danger, however, is that without first understanding a particular destination or resort’s central narrative (i.e., the sort of experience the resort seeks to create) and the data (number of rooms, cost), these reviews can be highly misleading! A vacationer looking for seclusion wouldn’t want to see planes taking off in the distance, but a business traveler might want to be close enough to hear the planes taking off.”

Exploration & Exploitation:

For these dual steps of AREA, Kevin connected with other people, interviewing them about their honeymoon experiences, and connected back to himself as a decision-maker to test his assumptions against his evidence. Kevin says the Exploitation step “was a crucial part of the process where we combined the analytical data (especially around cost) and mapped it against our Relative data and the Exploration interviews.”

As in the other steps of AREA some things went well and some could have gone better. To hear more details and learn from Kevin’s experience, tune into the podcast above.

Analysis:

Kevin conducted a pre-mortem trying to imagine how he and his fiancé would feel at different points of the trip.

What worked: “That process actually led us to remove a few items from our itinerary because we realized a potential cause of disappointment would be to feel over-scheduled or rushed during the first few days. In fact, we probably could have pared down the activities even further than we did!”

So how did Kevin come to conviction and make his decision about lion-gazing, lying in the sun and more? “We compared our final two options back toward our Critical Concepts and felt that we had two high-quality alternatives from which to choose.” Click on the podcast link to hear more from Kevin and how it all worked out.

I hope Kevin’s story –and others’- start a conversation that includes you: how you’re using AREA and the decisions that make up your life. Contact me at cheryl@areamethod.com and may we all make big decisions better!

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How can AREA help you and your business make big decisions better? Sign up for coaching, workshops or have Cheryl come to speak to your organization by emailing cheryl@areamethod.com. Cheryl can customize an in-person workshop for your company. Follow Cheryl on Twitter: @cheryleinhorn or visit areamethod.com. Pick up a copy of Cheryl’s award-winning book Problem Solved, which was honored as a finalist for the Best Book Awards best business book in the Management & Leadership category and was also a finalist for the International Book Awards best business book in the General Business category.