How Do You Create a Third Option?

In my coaching and consulting, I often encounter people who think in “or.” They ask, “Should I take this action or that action?” (They might talk about decisions, but it’s the same idea. It’s one or the other.)

I’ve been asking them this question, “Can you mash those two ideas together to use an “and” to create a third option? Or, can you create a third option?”

Sometimes that mashup works. More often, people need help to create a third option. Here are ways I’ve found that work for me:

Change your mode of idea generation:

  • If you’ve been talking, write down other ideas without talking.
  • If you’ve been writing (especially by yourself), talk with others in real-time.
  • Draw pictures of possibilities. I sometimes have to start with doodles and let my brain move to possibilities over time.

Ask different questions. These questions to me are more meta, questions about the questions:

  • If I knew what other options were, what would they be? (I know, this seems strange, but it works for me.)
  • How could I make the situation worse? (It’s not that I want the situation to be worse. I find that if I think of worse things, I also think of better things. Thinking of worse and better helps me create more options.)
  • What couldn’t possibly work? Is that something that helps me see other options?

The last one is about my mental models and filters:

  • Is there something that prevents me from seeing other options? (I often think of “this couldn’t possibly work” for this case.)
  • If I think of someone I often disagree with, what might that person see as options? (This helps me think of other perspectives.)
  • What am I missing?

That’s three different ways to consider options, with three options in each.

As you head into 2018, I hope you find even more ways to discover options that work for you. Have a wonderful New Year and I’ll see you in 2019.

Update: I thank the lovely people at the Agile Translators for their translation of this post into French. Please see http://www.les-traducteurs-agiles.org/2018/01/05/comment-se-creer-une-troisieme-option.html

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