Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Charlie and Checklists

"Checklist routines avoid a lot of errors. You should have all this elementary [worldly] wisdom and then you should go through a mental checklist in order to use it. There is no other procedure in the world that will work as well." -- Charlie Munger - 2007

If I wasn't such an obvious introvert and would have had the chutzpah to get up and ask Charlie Munger (and Mr. Buffett as well) a question at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting this year it would have been, “Can you give some of examples of the checklists you use everyday that you think are the most important?” I don’t know if Charlie would have answered it because I think he believes a lot in coming to your own conclusions, although he's been gracious enough to prescribe and describe some of his mental models over the years. The only real examples I can remember him giving of process related checklists are:

Charlie Munger’s Two-Track Analysis:

1. First, what are the factors that really govern the interests involved, rationally considered?

2. And second, what are the subconscious influences where the brain at a subconscious level is automatically doing these things – which by and large are useful, but which often misfunction.

One approach is rationality – the way you’d work out a bridge problem: by evaluating the real interests, the real probabilities and so forth. And the other is to evaluate the psychological factors that cause subconscious conclusions – many of which are wrong.


Charlie Munger’s “ultra-simple general notions”:

1. Solve the big no-brainer questions first.
2. Use math to support your reasoning.
3. Think through a problem backward, not just forward.
4. Use a multidisciplinary approach.
5. Properly consider results from a combination of factors, or lollapalooza effects.

Peter Bevelin has some checklists in his book Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger that may also be worth a look to all interested persons.