How many options are there?

One mindset that often limits our success in any endeavor is to think that we must choose between two options.  As a church leader and as a business owner I would have people ask, “Do you think we should do this or that?” referring to two possible ways of addressing a situation.  Unfortunately, I seldom explored other options and suggested they take one of the options they suggested.  Had we spent more time examining the situation and thinking about other possibilities we may have identified a much better solution.

We need to automatically assume there are more than two solutions to any challenge.  There may not be, but our organizations would often be better served if we at least began with that assumption and spent some time brainstorming what those options might be.  How much better would it be if we could identify seven or eight possible ways to address the issues that challenge us?  We would have a much better chance of identifying the best possible way of dealing with it.

The flip side of this, however, can also be a problem.  We don’t want to spend so much time analyzing a situation and pursuing different ways of responding to it that we suffer “analysis paralysis.”  If I am on a ship that develops a major leak I am going to do whatever I have to in order to immediately slow down the amount of water coming into the ship.  We can spend time later deciding how to best correct the problem permanently and how to prevent future leaks.  Right now we just to make sure the ship doesn’t sink.  If a major event threatens our business we need to throw an immediate fix on it and then take time to study how it happened and determine the best permanent fix.  Fortunately, most of our challenges are not so threatening or immediate, and they allow us the freedom to consider various options before dealing with them.

One of my favorite coaching questions that I use with my clients is, “That’s one option; what are some others?”  It’s a question you can use to self-coach or to ask members of your team when they come to you with issues.  Refuse to allow yourself to settle for one or two options to any challenge.  Intentionally see if you can find at least ten possible ways to address every issue.  Even if you don’t get to ten you’ll probably identify more than one or two, and that will make it more likely that you’ll find the best solution to your problem.

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