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on September 16, 2001
Regardless of whether you specialize in a particular business skill, work in IT, are a consultant, or someone who wants to make a critical personal decision, this book will give you the necessary tools for decision making.
It has three parts: (1) 50 pages on the basics of problem solving and decision making, (2) a collection of the fourteen tools that will make you an effective problem solver or decision maker, and (3) Next steps for refining your problem solving.
Part 1 prepares you by getting you to think about thinking and providing insights to problem solving - sort of like a warm up before you engage in strenuous exercise. This is appropriate because as you work through the exercises associated with each tool you will be getting a strenuous mental workout - the author makes you think hard throughout the book.
The tools given in this book are the foundation of any problem solving process. Although the author presents them in their most basic form, there are endless variations of them (and you will recognize many as you read through this book). Each tool is presented by giving some background, situations in which the particular tool is most effective, step-by-step procedures for using the tool and exercises. Answers to each exercise, including worked examples, are provided in the back of the book. The tools themselves are: (1) Problem restatement, (2) PROs-CONs-FIXes, (3) Divergent Thinking, (4) Sorting, Chronologies and Timelines, (5) Causal Flow Diagramming, (6) Matrices, (7) Decision/Event Trees, (8) Weighted Ranking, (9) Hypothesis Testing, (10) Devil's Advocacy, (11) Probability Tree, (12) Utility Tree, (13) Utility Matrix and (14) Advanced Utility Analysis.
I cannot point to any one thing I like more than another in this excellent book. I've used virtually every tool listed at one time or another before reading this book. However, after going through the [not-so-easy] exercises provided I can assure you that the next time I have occasion to use any of the 14 tools I will do so with a great deal more skill and efficiency. Since I'm an IT consultant who is constantly involved in analysis and problem solving I keep this book nearby as a ready reference. It has proven it's value time after time and earns it my highest recommendation.
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on October 28, 2002
The human mind is a fascinating thing. It creates a sense of self; it makes fast decisions; it interprets the past; it imagines the future; and yet it is a deceiver of the smartest kind.
Let's face it: seeing is not believing. It is the other way around. People usually see only the things they believe in.
According to Morgan D. Jones, once we believe something, our favorite mode of operation is to jump to conclusions: "Failure to consider alternatives fully is the most common cause of flawed or incomplete analysis. In other words, we must learn how to keep an open mind - one of the most difficult things we human beings can do."
Morgan D. Jones's book has two parts: (1) a short introduction into the way we habitually think, and the strengths and weaknesses of this process, (2) fourteen "tools" how to address the weaknesses and improve the process of thinking. It is a practical primer on decision-making, a hands-on manual how to structure one's analysis and keep an open mind for alternatives. In short, it tries to teach how to get away from a purely instinctual analysis of a problem to a structured analysis that will, hopefully, yield better results.
Bottom-line: lots of value for your money, in particular if you are convinced that you are the most rational decision-maker in town (you'll buy an eye-opener).
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on October 24, 2006
This is a great book for anyone who needs to make important decisions. I'm with a professional services (consulting) firm, and we're about to make this book mandatory text for all our consultants. It's that good!

Morgan Jones starts off describing that human beings are bad decision makers, but kid themselves about their ability to make good decisions. Then, the book describes 14 tools that can be used to make decision making more structured and error-free. Each tool is described through a story, and has plenty of exercises to try out the tool. It even has the "solutions" at the back to verify your approach.

The book has a few shortcomings. For starters, it does not describe which situations each tool is most useful for. The sample exercises present the facts together - something that is unlikely to be replicated in real life. It also does not classify decisions as being big or small - some decisions are too small to apply structured tools presented here, while some decisions are too big to depend solely on these tools.

This book is written like a textbook. To get full value from The Thinker's Toolkit, you'd have to really participate in the exercises actively. If you're planning to skim through the book, then I'd recommend you drop this book and instead read "Making Great Decisions in Business and Life" by Henderson & Hooper.

To sum up, it's a great textbook if you're a consultant or would like to teach structured problem solving. Bring out your pen and paper!
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on August 15, 2000
I carry this book with me all the times. When I have a decision to make, I select the best method and use the steps and examples. Has been helpful in emotional family decisions as well as career decisions. I especially liked the first two chapters that describe why smart people make dumb decisions. I can relate to that. Love the book. Recommend it. Easy to read.
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on January 31, 2006
I consider this to be a very `French' book. The French have the reputation of never getting a whole lot done due to their habit of extreme and unending analysis. No question goes unanswered. No possible rabbit trail left to surprise. Not a single contingency allowed. You'll be much more able to over-analyze using the techniques in The Thinker's Toolkit.

I actually love this book. It's basically a treatise on applied logic told in a very readable and useable way. Topics include developing weighted rankings, decision trees, the devil's advocate, and others. There are scores of graphics and asides to help in understanding the concepts.

Don't be put off by the title or the topics: the book is an excellent help for everyday decisions. For examples Jones discusses buying a car or purchasing insurance. He uses newspaper headlines throughout the book as topics for investigation. The entire work is very readable and equally as interesting. Definitely one of the best books on the subject.
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I have a half shelf of decision making books and have never found a better one than The Thinker's Toolkit. I've read it several times and keep seeing new applications each time. Not only does Jones teach his 14 techniques well, but he also asks you to complete valuable exercises on the way to underscore and remember what you have learned. I hope he publishes a follow on book.
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on July 27, 2003
Enjoyed the book immensely. Here, in amongst much 'release your genius' type stuff is something a little less salesmanship (on offer is just a toolkit and not the possibility of 'unleashing' your latent 'genius') and a good deal more of useable material.
In a business context the ability to establish a framework might not, at first, seem to be something missing - but after sitting through too many meetings where the criteria for establishing a decision is not known the ability to pick one of the tools from this book and get everyone thinking through the same process is worth more than the price alone. Less angst, better decisions.
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on January 14, 2010
Like a good tool kit, this book has a tool for almost every situation. In a nutshell, the message here is that before you make any decisions -- tough or easy -- you need to give a lot of thought to how you're going to give it a lot of thought. In other words, you need to "structure" your thinking to get the best result(s), and the author gives you 14 "powerful" techniques for doing so. There's a lot of good stuff in this book. Unfortunately, some of it's very simple and readable while the rest is complex and turgid. I can see this book being handed out at a management training seminar. But it's far too weighty for most of the decisions you'll make in a day. Glad I read it, but I probably won't use most of the techniques in my daily life.
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on July 27, 2000
Any single technique could be worth the price of the book if it helps you solve a problem that's been bothering you. The author starts by describing a typical business meeting where a major decision is made. He goes on to describe how faulty analytical techniques lead to a wrong conclusion. He then gives you 14 different tools to help you arrive at a better conclusion on all your problems. I figured I couldn't go wrong; the author is an ex-CIA analyst.
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on August 3, 2014
The book is useful for learning to structure analysis. Unfortunately it isn't designed to be read in electronic format, as the exercises are interspersed throughout the book but the answers are at the back of the book, with no links between the two. Pretty tedious to use the book this way. The content of the book should be useful for a variety of applications, however. FWIW, I doubt the authenticity of many of the favorable reviews of this book after having checked their personal profiles.
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