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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Mar 11, 2022


Generating more options increases the chances of better outcomes, particularly when faced with uncertainty. That’s the power of options.


Welcome to episode 128 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we are looking at the power of options.

Options are powerful. One characteristic of those with high levels of hope is a focus on multiple pathways. When they’re faced with a challenge or obstacle, those with hope quickly determine options to still reach their goals.

But what about you? When you’re faced with a challenge or problem, how many options do you typically come up with?

When we encounter a challenge, most of us tend to generate one option and then run with that. We generally go with the most obvious idea that first crosses our mind. What are the chances of that being the best option? Pretty slim. 

I once heard someone say that the best idea is number 2.5. What did they mean by that? Well, idea one is rarely the best. Idea two is usually better than idea one. Idea three is often a little too far out to be practical. So the best idea is 2.5 - combining idea two and idea three as a new option. The principle here is that we are far better off generating multiple options, then choosing the most appropriate even if that means combining some ideas.

Yet in those moments our brains are desperate for certainty and conclusion. That’s why we so often stop at option one. Here are a few tips to help.

  1. Recognise that option generation and option evaluation are two distinct steps. If we are trying to evaluate our options while we generate them, we will often throw out too many options that could have merit. Instead, spend time generating multiple options before evaluating them.
  2. Use a coach. I’m a big fan of peer coaching and include it in every leadership program I design. Having someone asking you for further options and guiding you towards new areas is extremely helpful.
  3. Consider where you come up with your best ideas. Most people develop their best ideas when they’re relaxed, maybe having a shower or going for a walk, and when they’re interacting with others. Make sure you give your brain time to relax and consider options, and bring others around you to bounce ideas off.

So options are powerful. Don’t get stuck on option one, but always take the time to explore other alternatives.