Either/or choices are incomplete

I can’t remember now who it was but I remember some years ago someone giving me some very simple but very profound advice. Advice that I’ve passed on many times and used even more. The advice is simply this:

sign post with arrows in opposite directionsAny time someone poses an either-or choice, an ‘A’ vs. ‘B’ situation, add two more options to the list: both of the above and none of the above. Then take look at it again.

Simple, obvious and overlooked far too often. It’s amazing to me how often that little mental “trick” reveals an insight. We tend to get focused on the advantages/disadvantages of the two options and miss something in the process.

I find the A+B option especially powerful. I ask myself or the group–how could ‘A’ be combined with ‘B’? If that happened, what would it look like? Even if, ultimately, one of the original choices is selected I always feel better about it after that little exercise.

So, I’ll pass this bit of advice on and hope you’ll find it as useful as I have.
Don’t stop with ‘A’ or ‘B’, what would ‘A+B’ look like? and is there a ‘C’ that’s better than both?


About Dick Knisely

Science-guy, engineer, father, grandfather, husband -- yeah, I'm all of those things. I author this blog to share things I care about and you might care about, too. I hope you do and that you'll join in to share things you care about.
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