The president of Ford Motor Co., Robert McNamara once asked one of his executives after a decision they had made, “What did you decide not to do?” It is not that McNamara thought the executive had made a poor decision, but how could he have known for sure if he didn’t know what options had been rejected? McNamara wanted to make sure that multiple options had been considered. He wanted to make sure that his executive had not settled for the obvious decision, even if that decision looked good on the surface. McNamara wanted to make sure that his executive had made the best decision.
Why is it important to consider multiple options during the decision-making process?
If we know our options, we can often come up with a creative solution. If we don’t have options or if you don’t know your options, we are stuck. In decision making, if we do not have options, we only have one decision. That decision may be the wrong decision, or it may not be the best decision.
Think of this example. Say you have to go to the store in the town where you live. You probably know several different routes you could take and still get to your destination. If you are taking one of those routes and you find out that the road is closed, you can then detour and take one of the alternative routes to the store and still get there. If you only know the one route, then you are stuck and your only option is to turn around. The end result is that you don’t get to the store.
The more options we have, the more we can see what is not obvious to others. Successful people are really good at seeing what is not obvious to others. Successful people engage the creative parts of their minds and find different ways to look at a problem. They wonder how else they could deal with a decision. They wonder about what the possibilities are.
Options are a result of thinking early, often, and differently. When we think early, often, and differently, we begin to create more options within our lives. Options comes from the discipline of pursuing options. Many times this discipline will take us down roads we never would have traveled to, to places we never would have seen, where we find new options we never would have considered.
I would like to offer a challenge to you. The next time somebody asks you to make a decision about a situation, don’t offer an immediate solution, but instead ask the question “What are our options?” Then be willing to hear the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly, the impossible, the possible, the convenient, and the inconvenient. Be willing to hear all the options. Once you have all the options, then you can comfortably and confidently make your decision and know it is a very well-informed decision.