Have I considered all the logical alternatives and selected the proper course of action?

Fans of adventure stories always find their hero or heroine in a jam with no way out. Scarce resources, limited options and clocks ticking down to doomsday provide all the necessary ingredients for a thrilling story. In our day-to-day lives we experience less drama but we often unwittingly find ourselves in similar situations. Why? Sometimes outside circumstances limit our alternatives. More often, though, we are confined by self-imposed blinders. Any time you hear, “we’ve always done it that way,” you’re probably listening to someone shutting the door on alternative views. Likewise groups that immediately jump to a solution instead of considering different options short-circuit a proper decision making process.

Identifying legitimate alternatives allows us to optimize the likelihood of success. Any poker player would love to have extra cards to play at the table because it improves the odds of success. It also allows him or her to flexibly respond if the first alternative fails to meet expectations. It’s an implicit back-up plan just waiting to be seized should the selected alternative fail.