App Review Tue: Idea Bucket for iOS

I recently finished a class for my Masters degree in Systems Engineering called Decision and Risk Analysis. During this class the instructor brought our attention to an iOS that helps you in the decision making process and that was Idea Bucket.

The concept for the app is pretty take a decision you need to make (a decision is called a "bucket" in the app) and you add ideas (which are different options or alternatives you have to choose from within your decision) and criterion (aspects of each alternative like cost or sound quality for example).

I am in the process of deciding what external speaker system I want to buy for my new digital stage piano so I used this app to help me make the decision. I'll walk you through how to setup this decision in the app.

1) First you create a new bucket called "Piano Speakers"

2) Within that idea bucket called "Piano Speakers" you then press the "+" button and add the various options you want to consider in your decision. For me it was between 2 different speaker systems:

3) Now you need to add in all the different aspects or attributes of the alternatives you want to use as a way to measure each alternative against each other. These measurements are called "Criterion" in the app. For my decision I chose the following Criterion:

* Weight
* Cost
* Multiple Inputs for Gigs
* Size (Volume)
* Appearance

4) Next you need to assign a weight to each of the criterion. How important is each of these attributes to you? If it is a really important factor in your decision then you weight that criterion as high. If it's just so-so you rate in the middle and if its not very important you weight it low. To weight each criterion press the pencil icon in the top right of the screen when viewing the criterion list and then press the pencil icon that appears next to each criterion. This will open up a dialog window and at the bottom of that window there is a slider that lets you adjust the weight for that criteria. Adjust the slider and press the save icon on the upper right-hand corner. Do this for each of your criteria.

5) Now you must assign values to each of your criteria. To do this select the alternative you want to rate in the drop down menu at the top of the screen. This will list all of the criterion within that alternative. Adjust the sliders for each criterion listed then switch to the next alternative and adjust the sliders for each of the criterion again. The small blue dots shown in each criterion are the ratings for the alternatives OTHER than the alternative you are currently within. The large blue dot that you are able to slide is only for the alternative you a currently adjusting. This allows you to see how your scored the criterion for your other alternatives while you are scoring for the currently selected alternative.

6) Once you have done all of this it is time to see your results. Press the graphic icon in the bottom right-hand corner and it will take you to one of several views showing your results. The list view of the scoring results is shown below, but there is also bar chart view and an X&Y graph view as well.

The app took a little bit of time to figure out. While it is relatively simple, there are just enough options and steps in the process to make the first "Idea Bucket" you create a bit cumbersome. Overall this is a very handy app. It helps you really think about your decision and what aspects of each alternative are important to you (this isn't always obvious until you start thinking about it). The ability to weight each criteria is also extremely important and the app makes this a very simple process. One thing I wish the app had was the ability to do a pair-wise comparison of the criteria and that pair-wise comparison would then compute the weights for you. This is a pretty complex calculation so I can understand why it wasn't included in the app. For a fairly simple decision the slide method of weighting works well.

If you are looking for some help in making a decision then this is a good app to consider. It allows you to apply some good decision making tactics in a pretty user-friendly and graphical way. One last thing and this is very important...the app doesn't make the decision for you. YOU MUST MAKE THE DECISION. The app will aid you in making the decision but don't just simply take the results that get spit out of the app and call it done. Use those results to then make the decision yourself.

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