Introducing The Magic Druid Thinking Tool

November 2, 2022 | Mirta Fagundes dos Santos

a druid wearing a green cape

As I am writing this I am preparing to go to a conference in Orlando.

Usually, when I travel for work it is a week-long trip and I end up debating with myself whether to take carry-on luggage only or whether to also take check-in luggage.

I’m in two minds. It is a repeating dilemma for me.

(Now, you may be able to relate, or you may not, but surely you can relate to the concept of being caught between two options, and oscillating between the two.)

The better of two evils

For me, both options suck because they both cause some negative side effects which make me want to do both, and neither, of the two alternatives!!!
In other words, only carry-on luggage causes negative side effects such that I feel pressure to also take check-in luggage the next time I travel, and vice versa. It is a never-ending loop where I move between the two sides. EVERY.TIME.

Introducing Magic Druids

A graphical representation of this loop is formally known as Magic Druids and it is going to help me solve this, and other dilemmas, once and for all!

Actually, that’s a bit of false advertising… there is nothing magical about druids. Druids are hard logic with a bit of belief-questioning thrown in the mix.

James Powell and Peter Cronin co-developed this problem-solving tool that we happen to teach in our Black Belt in Thinking program. Recently, this tool has also been accepted into the TOC Body of Knowledge by the Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOCICO) – meaning, it’s a really handy tool!

The purpose of this tool is to map out both sides of a dilemma, be it an internal dilemma, or one between two people (my example happens to be my internal dilemma). And in doing this, analysing exactly how a behaviour leads to the negative side effects such that you are pressured to do the opposing behaviour. This is where the looping effect comes into play because as you do the other behaviour, all the negative side effects it causes drive you to the original behaviour – and on and on the loop goes.

Example of a druid

Let’s have a look at what my dilemma looks like using a Magic Druid tool.

The mapping of a druid involves a set of 4 cause and effect steps on each side of the druid read from the bottom up and looping around, like this:

Let’s say I take carry-on luggage only on my work trip. If I do that, I usually don’t have room for everything I want to take, so I take the bare essentials only. Which usually leads to regret at some point during the trip when I desperately need something I didn’t bring (Yes, sometimes an extra pair of heels is a desperate need!).

This is frustrating enough for me to sit over my tiny, insufficient carry-on thinking, “That’s it, next time I’m taking check-in luggage too!” 

So, I do. And boy do I commit – I end up really packing that extra suitcase to the brim. This usually means that the bags are quite heavy, and with having more than one bag to handle I end up quite huffed and puffed while in transit. It is usually while trying to get my bags into the back of an Uber, with the Uber driver not moving a finger to help, that I think to myself, “I really do need to learn to travel with only a carry-on bag. Mark my words; next time I travel, I will only bring a carry-on!”

And now for the grand finale – the solution!

My example (above) may be a trivial example, but hopefully a relatable one. And hopefully it illustrated, in a simple way, how we end up in a Magic Druid. Of course, the same loop would apply if we were conflicted between offering our customers discounts vs charging full price, or any number of higher weighted dilemmas.

So, why use this tool?

Simply put, breaking a dilemma down to this level of clarity is the quickest way to a solution.

For my trivial example, I can see the “obvious” solution now that I have all the causal chains written out. I should simply check in a carry-on-sized piece of luggage, instead of a 20kg bag. It will be sufficient for the few bits that I end up missing, and it won’t be too heavy to handle. This means I never have to be caught in that dilemma again!

Now, for more important dilemmas, we would need to analyse and break down the logic underlying each of the cause-and-effect steps in order to come up with a solution. I.e., we would have to question what we believe, why we believe it and whether there is another way. (Shameless plug here; we teach this step in our Thinking Foundations course, so sign up here to learn more about complex druids and how to solve them)