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9.5.3. Formulating: Creating Alternatives


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 9. Managing in a Complex World > 9.5. Formulating Intent > 9.5.3. Formulating: Creating Alternatives

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If we get past decision short-cutting, then we start the conscious decision-making process by coming up with a number of possible alternative courses of action which may be taken in response to an external event or as an attempt to achieve an internal goal.

Fig. 9.4 Formulating Intent

Same old way

We typically create alternatives by reaching into our memories and mental models to determine what has worked previously in similar circumstances. If we try something and it does not work, the most common response is to try it again, and then again and again until we realise that it is not going to work this time. Only after we are convinced that existing alternatives are inadequate do we typically start thinking creatively.

People can become so convinced that a strategy will be effective or be so blind to alternatives that they repeat unsuccessful actions, sometimes for years. Parents sometimes spend the entire time that their children are in their teenage years telling their teenagers what to do and what not to do, seemingly blind to the fact that their children are no longer compliant to commands (and in fact commands now causes serious revolution).

Creative creation

The creation of alternatives is a primary part of creativity and innovation, and the ability to ‘think outside the box’ is a key skill.

Studies of brainstorming and idea creation have shown that the quality of ideas tends to be fairly consistent as you generate more and more ideas. In fact, the more novel ideas often come out after you have gone through the ‘obvious’ solutions to the problem. This tends to go against a common tendency to cut directly to the chase and go with the first reasonable solution identified.

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