As business leaders, we face daily decisions that leave us very uneasy. We feel caught between a rock and a hard place. We choose the lesser of two evils. We’ve become accustomed to making an occasional bad decision. We accept mistakes as part of the job. Here’s the thing: if you are choosing between only two options, a bad decision is a near certainty.

We know there is a better way. We’ve all heard about “the third way”, “thinking and instead of or” and other such phrases. However, I, personally, find it very hard to remember to look for the third (or fourth) option. Fortunately, I’m really stubborn. I refuse to get to the point where the only choices available seem destined to leave me dissatisfied.

Of course, if I just stopped there, I’d still be left between a rock and a hard place. Here’s the good news. There are some great tools for breaking out of these “False Choice” situations. Almost all of them either require or are enhanced by teamwork. Getting a fresh set of eyes on an issue can help overcome our own biases. And the more diverse the team, the better.

Here are some tips on better team decision-making:

  • Differences in power or authority within a team must be pro-actively neutralized by such techniques as letting the least powerful members speak first.
  • Open sharing of data is critical to optimize the power of teaming.
  • Never choose between just two things: encourage creativity

A great resource on finding alternatives is Edward de Bono’s book, Serious Creativity: Using Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas. It will stop just short of blowing your mind. There is not just a third way. There are fourth and fifth ways.

Another resource for ways to avoid bad decisions, is Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive. It has become my go-to choice for a refresher on ways to deal with the built in flaws humans bring to their decisions. One reason we have trouble “thinking outside the box” is that most of us don’t have a clue as to where the box is!

What’s the next big decision you have to make? Doesn’t it deserve a better way?

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