Notice some rough edges in this essay? It’s a rough draft, but I’m open by default. Expect to see edits soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I make decisions. Our team is quickly growing while iterating on a product that’s gaining users faster than you can count. Solid decision making skills are handy. Today I want to talk about the framework that I use the most: easy and effective leverage.

Leverage: power or ability to act or to influence people, events, decisions, etc.;

I’m often approached by people on other teams asking about how we can make some idea happen. We do a lot with only a few people at work. It’s important to find a simple and easy solution to most of these one off requests. Difficulty can’t be our only metric for a match though, we also need our solution to be effective. I find that for most problems, there is some distinguishable bar for effectiveness. Once a solution passes that bar, finding a more effective solution isn’t worth it.

When I need to find an easy and effective solution, I’ll do a breadth-first search. It’s best not to put too much thought into each solution at this stage. I try to come up with as many solutions as I can and write them all down.

Then, I’ll list them all out on a chart with two axis. On the left, I’ve got difficulty (high to low) and on the bottom I’ve got effectiveness (low to high). It should look something like this:

Easy and Effective

My viable solutions will be in the top right quadrant.

Once I’ve got a list of viable options, I need to choose which one to move forward with. To make that choice, I have to think about what the solution will allow me to achieve in the future.

For each of the solutions that are both easy and effective, I list out the second and third order effects that this solution will have. What does it stop me from doing in the future? What opportunities does it open up?

I’m looking for a solution that is both easy and effective, that provides me with the most opportunity, and the least restrictions in the future. If I find this solution, I’ve found a solution with high leverage.

Daniel Erickson is the Founder and CEO of Viable, a Generative Analysis system that helps teams make better decisions with qualitative data.