Need vs. Want

Need vs. Want

Just a quick post to share a decision making pro-tip that I shared with a few people this week.

Anytime I need to consider a number of criteria to make a decision on something, I try to suss out what my needs are vs. my wants. (This is a framework my wife and I have been using in our personal & professional decision making for years.)

It sounds so obvious, right? But specifically writing it out brings clarity to a decision, especially when multiple people are involved.

  • Needs = Must have this. Deal breaker if not.
  • Wants = Desired but not required.

For example, when I need hire someone, I make sure to list the skills and characteristics for the two. Is the ability to code in a certain language a need or a want? How about certain type of cultural fit?

Additionally, I try to make the 'needs' section as short as possible and bump those items into 'wants', because I find that many 'needs' are actually 'wants' in disguise. An easy way to tell the difference when recruiting, for example: If a certain skill (say, the ability to code in Python) is listed as a "need," then I would create a filter that disqualifies anyone who can't code in Python, which means I don't even consider them for the role. But if I wasn't comfortable automatically disqualifying anyone who couldn't code Python, then I'd realize that's actually a 'want' even though I thought it was a 'need' before I really thought through it. So make yourself really take a hard look at whether a perceived need really is a true need.

Another example of why this is so powerful: When my wife and I were house hunting, we made a list of needs vs. wants. We found a house that met everything on our "needs" list (i.e., less than 10 minutes from the office; has a separate casita, at least 2 BR, rent below a certain price). It was a hot market so we signed the rental agreement for it sight-unseen and felt comfortable doing so because even though we didn't know if it had all of our "wants," we did know it met our needs -- which it did; the house worked out great for us. Carefully defining one's needs vs. wants helps you make faster decisions because you don't mix the two up. If we hadn't specified the difference, it's very likely we would have had a "want" that we thought was a need which would have kept us from moving as quickly on the property.


Pic above is of our ShareThis board member, Blair, talking with our VP of Engineering, Isaac recently about reporting best-practices. Just seemed like the most appropriate pic for this post!