Michael Felberbaum writes about the article from last week’s Harvard Business Review (HBR) about how great leaders think. Michael says that the HBR article argues that if you have one ok choice, it’s better to create a second choice for yourself, and then choose between the two choices becuase choosing between two will give you a better result than going with one ok choice when it may be the only option. Michael writes about a hidden benefit that may come out of expanding one choice into two choices:

If we follow this “rule” of finding at least two good options, I think we make better decisions. I have been piloting this for myself in trying to resolve some decisions I’ve lingered on for a while about a book I’m working on. I was trying to find an ideal solution. Instead I’ve found two workable options. Amazingly, I think a third option will emerge from those two and it will be closer to my ideal. I’m finding that the benefit of this “rule” is to fully engage creative decision-making which involves comparison, contrast and cost/benefit trade-offs.

I like two ideas especially in what Michael writes:
1) that he expects that once he engages in two ideas, a third better one will likely come along
2) that he enjoys comparing, trading-off benefits/costs between the options

I think of this comparing and contrasting as “negotiating with yourself.” You need to up the stakes. You need to get to a higher level of challenge, and a potentially higher level of flow (ideal combination of skills and challenge).

If you have one choice, you probably haven’t gone as deeply or as far as you could into many domains. You may likely not have pushed yourself as hard as you could have. At least getting two options allows you to negotiate with yourself – to play the game of, “did I push hard enough?”

Remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial with the angel and the devil? Well, it’s time to push myself harder. It’s time to negotiate with an angel version of myself and a devil version of myself.

Get two ideas, and the world already expands! That’s why I think Michael believes that once you have two, a third will likely come your way… because you’ve already proven to your brain that there’s more than one, and maybe it keeps looking (automatically) while you relax.


  1. Posted Monday June 11, 2007 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    That IS interesting stuff.

    I believe that the final paragraph of yours is the most likely reason for this to happen.

    When we initially see one and only one option, it creates a sense of helplessness or powerlessness in us, saying “Well, that’s it, that’s all you got, so don’t worry about trying.” And, deep down, we stop trying. Our brain gives up.

    When we do the creative work and come up with a second option, that gives our brains the ‘green light’ to see further options. … the whole 4-minute mile thing.


  2. Posted Tuesday June 12, 2007 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Yes, I agree with you, Nick, about the brain just seeking to look outward and further!