Criteria vs. Categories

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Are you oftentimes caught wondering whether to input your Decision Lens data as a criterion versus an alternative category? If so, the below definitions and examples serve to help you make the distinction between the two.


  • Criteria should encompass the key differentiating factors between the alternatives (i.e. projects, investments, etc.) that you are assessing.
    • i.e., what factors are best suited to determine which alternative is better than another.
    • These factors should indicate degrees of ability, resulting in a relative score for each alternative against each criterion.
  • Criteria should be measurable (qualitatively or quantitatively), and should not result in a “binary” answer (*see categories).
  • Example: I am assessing quarterbacks – arm strength and 40-yd dash time can be measured quantitatively on a scale from Excellent (with a corresponding value and time) to Poor, with degrees in between. A qualitative example would be decision-making ability



  • Categories serve more of an informational purpose, helpful for grouping different sets of alternatives for ‘slicing & dicing’ lists of alternatives in different ways.
  • Categories are best suited for *binary issues – i.e., whether an alternative aligns to a category set is a yes/no answer.
  • Categories can be used to “tag” alternatives and track additional information about them.
    • Categories can be formatted as free text, numbers and/or drop-down lists.
  • Categories can also be used to filter data during analysis to refine the set of alternatives being viewed/discussed; however, this will not affect the value score (priority) of the alternative. 
  • Example: I am assessing quarterbacks – Whether a QB is left-handed or right handed is a category (they are one or the other). Another example might be the type of offense that they are most experienced in.



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