There Is No One Right Answer

The title of this post was inspired from Patterns in Design, Technology and Business, by Fred White.

I often hear people say, “The only thing we can do now is (fill in the blank).” Really? The ONLY thing? I like having a little fun when I hear that. I quickly ask someone else, “Is there something you can think of that we could do?” Invariably, one or more people come up with good alternative actions. Often, much better than the “only solution.”

There are a few things at work when people offer “only-solutions”. First, they lock-on early to their view of the situation (world). Second, they skip the most important step in any decision process. Third, they are stuck with few thinking patterns. Let’s take them one at a time.

Locking on to one view of the world is quite easy to do. For most of us, we only have the view we have. That’s why in any serious decision situation we will usually do better if we engage others in our decision process. This brings different perspectives (view), experiences and knowledge. All can enhance decision-making.

There is a tautology about making sound decisions. You can’t choose the best althernative if the best alternative wasn’t considered in the first place. The second phase of the Choosing By Advantages (CBA) Decisionmaking System for sound decisions is to innovate alternatives. We don’t have the habit of generating a multitude of alternatives in the see-problem, fix-problem world of construction. Consequently, we are not getting the best decisions.

Design and construction call for both practical patterns and the mingling of patterns in novel ways. “If this, then that” is a practical pattern that fits prior experience to a recognizable situation. “Try something, learn something” is a pattern for dealing with ambiguous circumstances. By combining thinking patterns we can gain a richer appreciation of the decision situations we face.

Fred White closes his article with a pattern for the business environment, one that fits will in design and construction: “There is no one right answer.” To that CBA practitioners would add, there are “only” sound, congruent and effective decisions.

Comments

Great points, Hal. It’s funny, I left that last sentence in my original post planning to do a follow-up. But prolific as you are, you beat me to it. In addition to your three reasons that people get stuck on one answer, I think there is a special circumstance for leaders. Most leaders regard their job description to include making decisions, particularly tough ones. You know, the last word. when others can’t agree. And once the decision is made, leaders must “stay the course” and not deviate. How can we follow a leader who keeps changing direction? But over time, constant challenges to a leader’s authority and decisions can breed a closed-mind habit. Leaders make a fetish of sticking to their guns and the result is many missed opportunities for better solutions and a more participatory culture.

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