Workflow

Through a simple four-step workflow, using Onebrief, almost anyone can create and present a strategy that resolves an important decision problem.

Following the creation of a new brief, those four steps are: Map, Rate, Decide, and Present.

Map

The goal with mapping is to represent your situation, or problem space, as clearly as possible.

Mapping in Onebrief is different from most other diagram tools, because:

  1. There are only 5 universal building blocks: Few choices makes Onebrief easy to master. Consistency ensures all maps are read the same way, and notation is not the focus of the conversation.
  2. The map will arrange itself: Not working on the layout saves you important time and focus. Consistency (i.e. left-to-right arrangement) and good aesthetics (i.e. minimal tangling) ensure maps are fast to read and always presentation ready.

A full map is raw material for all subsequent activities. Depending on the problem at hand, you will use one or more of the following approaches to mapping.

Map forwards

When dealing with a prioritization decision, for example, you may know what your options are, but not which ones are most valuable. In cases like that, mapping forwards makes the most sense.

Mapping forwards should feel like a typical whiteboard exercise, where list your options quickly, and only afterwards worry about understanding how they are related.

To start, click the "quickly add cards" button (depicted below) and repeatedly answer the question "What needs to happen?", by typing into the box and pressing Enter.

Brainstorm button

When you are done, proceed to "Refine" as the next step.

Map backwards

When dealing with a business objective or OKR, for example, you may know your goals, but not which paths may lead you to succeed. In cases like that, mapping backwards makes the most sense.

Mapping backwards should feel like the Design Thinking exercise HWM ("How might we?"), where starting from a main goal, you answer that question repeatedly in order to expand your perspective, and only afterwards worry about specific action items.

To start, select your main goal or any other card on the map, then click one of the arrows buttons along the edge of that card:

Main goal

Each time you perform this action, you'll be asked to answer the question "What might contribute to this ...?", or a variant of it, as in the following example:

Add cause modal

Upon answering this question, a new card will be linked to the one you started with. You can repeat the process for the same card, or select another card instead.

Once you are satisfied, you may proceed to "Refine", or skip to "Rate," as the next step.

Refine

Refining a map is mostly about adding and removing links. Your goal is to ensure the map is logical and clear, and that both positive and negative effects are considered.

Here's how to refine your links:

  1. Linking existing cards:

    • Drag-and-drop: simply drag one of the arrow buttons from a selected card over another.
    • Search: If cards are far apart, simply click the arrow button instead, and when asked to "Enter new or search to link existing", use keywords to find the card you want to link.
  2. Linking new cards:

    • Simply click one of the arrow buttons of a selected card, and when asked to "Enter new or search to link existing," enter the title of a new card.
  3. Deleting links:

    • Keyboard: After selecting a link, use the Delete key.
    • Right-click menu: Alternatively, right-click a link, and select "Delete" from the menu.

There is no specific sequence of steps or criteria leading to a map that is refined enough. Just use your judgement and try not to overdo it.

Pro tip: As your map grows, you may begin to feel overwhelmed trying to refine it. Look for the "Show only adjacent" filter on the top-right corner of the screen, and use it to see a small section of the map at a time:

Adjacent filter

Rate

Onebrief's recommendations are based on 3 factors:

  1. Map linkage
  2. Card ratings
  3. Link ratings

Map linkage naturally results from mapping, which was covered in details in the previous section. Card and link ratings, on the other hand, are actions you will have to explicitly take.

IMPORTANT: Card and link ratings are individual. That means you can share a brief with other collaborators and Onebrief will automatically average everyone's ratings for you.

Card ratings

Only action and outcome cards are rated. Actions are rated on an investment scale. Outcomes are rated on a value scale.

To rate a card, right-click and pick your rating from the menu that appears:

Rating popover

Rating scales are fuzzy by design. In other words, what each level means matters less than how cards are rated relative to each other.

Here is an example to illustrate:

Card ratings

In plain English:

  • 20% of passers-by purchase a cup of lemonade is more valuable than 500 people pass by my stand today.
  • Also, City shuts down my lemonade stand has an extreme negative value.

Outcomes can have positive and negative ratings, which is useful for modeling different types of outcomes as goals and risks, respectively.

The average rating and your rating are always displayed with each card on the map.

Link ratings represent the causal probability of a link.

To rate a link, right-click and choose one of the options between very low and very high.

Behind the scenes, links are rated on two complementary levels.

Given A (cause) and B (effect), first we want to understand how likely B is to occur when A does. Second, we want to understand how likely B is to occur when A does not. However hard to explain, the intuition behind these is quite simple.

For precise rating, simply double-click it on the map. That will reveal a menu on the right side with rating options:

Link rating

In plain English:

  • Would A lead to B? Answer: To Buy 20 lemons isn't sufficient to Make 2 gallons of lemonade, but it brings me very close to that goal.
  • Would B occur if A does not? Answer: If I don't Buy 20 lemons I will not be able to Make 2 gallons of lemonade.

Similar to card rating, we use fuzzy scales here. That ensures you get most of the benefit from rating without getting hung up in minutia.

The average probability of a link is reflected on its thickness and can be revealed using a single click. Unrated links are displayed with a small gap, so you can easily spot them.

Here again, there's no need to overdo it. Cards that are unrated are assumed to have zero value or investment. Links that are unrated, are assumed to have moderate probability.

Rate everything you care about and move on to "Decide," as your next step. Your analysis at that stage will help you find important rating gaps, if any exists.

Decide

At this point, you may be thinking that Onebrief will magically decide everything for you. Well, that's not quite the case.

So far, you have mapped and rated your options. It might not seem like so, but that alone is quite a valuable accomplishment. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back, and take a moment to appreciate how much you have learned about your situation in the process.

Onebrief will also help you analyze your options and provide some intelligent insights, but that is as far as it goes. Decisions will remain yours to make.

Before explaining how that works, let's first define what deciding means.

What is a decision?

Any card in Onebrief will be assigned one of 4 possible statuses. Each status represents your decision and whether the card is resolved or not.

If in the real world decisions can be roughly reduced to saying yes or no to things, in Onebrief you do that by updating a card's status.

For that, right-click, then choose from the available options:

Card statuses

Alternatively, double-click to reveal the right-side menu and use it to choose a different status.

For each card type, here is how each of the 4 statuses lines up:

Decision Resolution action outcome context
Maybe (default) Unresolved Default Default Default
Yes Unresolved Prioritized Prioritized Prioritized
Yes Resolved Done Happened True
No Resolved Won't do Won't happen False

How to decide

The main way in which Onebrief supports your decisions is by narrowing the decision space for you when you use the "Show only highest relative value" filter.

To enable it, look for the flame icon, on the top-right corner of the screen:

Importance filter

Using the slider, you can choose the maximum number of cards you want to see at a time. Based on their value relative to your current selection, only the top will be displayed.

Here is what's happening behind the scenes:

  1. Onebrief is calculating the "cumulative" value of each card based on what might result from it, given its linkage, card ratings, and link ratings. For that, it applies a probabilistic model (i.e. Bayesian network).
  2. For the card you have selected, Onebrief will then determine the most likely causes and effects relative to it (once again using conditional probabilities), and show only the ones ranked the highest, up to the maximum number of cards you want to see.

The following widget will appear on the screen, to remind you of your filter settings, and to allow you to swap the card it is based on:

Filtered map

Your goal at this point is to identify a relatively small number of cards to prioritize. A good starting point is to aim for 3 prioritized outcomes and up to 9 prioritized actions. You'll see why in the next section.

Present

The best way to start a presentation, is by showing only your prioritized cards. That is the most intuitive way to summarize any strategy. You can do that by enabling the "Show only prioritized" filter, located at the top-right corner of the screen:

Priority filter

Keeping the number of prioritized cards low, besides giving you focus, has the additional benefits of making your strategy memorable and your presentation short.

After presenting the summary, you can preemptively, or on demand, answer the following two questions about each prioritized card:

  1. Why was it prioritized? To answer this question, select the card in question and enable the "Show only highest relative value" filter. This allows you to tell your audience about the most valuable causes and effects that led to its prioritization.
  2. What could have been prioritized instead? To answer this question, select a relevant outcome, and switch between "Show only highest relative value" and "Show only adjacent" filters, to show valuable options you left out and others that may not even have been considered valuable.

Upon answering these questions, enable the "Show only prioritized" filter again to bring your audience back to your summary. Rinse and repeat.