First, here is the traditional Pros and Cons method according to its creator, Benjamin Franklin:
“For pros and cons, my way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one pro, and over the other con; then during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives, that at different times occur to me. for or against the measure. When I have thus got them all together, in one view, I endeavor to estimate their respective weights; and, where I find two (one on each side) that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I find a reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three.
He Continues . . .
If I judge some two reasons, con equal to three reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies; and if, after a day or two of farther consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly. Though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet, when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better and am less likely to make a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation, in what may be called moral or prudential algebra.”
Modern Franklin Pros and Cons
This updated Pros and Cons tool supports decision-making for a group of people. Use it as a proxy for Benjamin Franklin’s Pros and Cons method. His approach is better suited for an individual than a group of people. Especially with controversial issues, it is always helpful to consider multiple points of view.
Method for Modern Franklin Pros and Cons
To safely argue a controversial issue, carefully (and with advanced forethought about the options for either a homogeneous, heterogeneous, or hybrid blend of teams) separate your participants into three teams: Affirmative, Dismissive, and Observer. Give the affirmative and dismissive teams each fifteen minutes to develop their arguments, respectively supporting or refuting the issue. The observer team drafts criteria by which it may evaluate and assess the issue. Have the teams present their arguments to the observer team formally—as if it were a debate or court of law. Next . . .
- Affirmative and dismissive teams prepare for two-minute rebuttals to defend their positions.
- Observer team then describes the criteria they recommend using to help decide the issue, based on arguments presented by both affirmative and dismissive teams.
- Teams take another five minutes to revise their arguments based on observer criteria and the discussion sequence described above repeats.
- After round two, teams reform as one to discuss the issues. If the discussion reaches an impasse, switch members among different teams, carefully placing louder voices on the teams opposite of their apparent voice, so they are forced to represent the “other” side.
Do not intentionally polarize participants. Ensure that your teams comprise participants who hold a variety of views. As session leader (ie, both facilitator and methodologist), select the teams—do not allow the participants to choose. In most debates, the side one takes is not known until minutes before the debate, so that all debaters prepare to argue both sides of an issue.
Benefits for Modern Franklin Pros and Cons
The benefits realized include:
- Amplifies, expands, and stretches the issues, criteria, and perspectives.
- Allows the group to build am integrative view of all sides of the issue.
- Provides more robust and coherent arguments, issues, and criteria.
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