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Decision Chain Element - Creative Alternatives


Creative Alternatives: There is usually a better way

An alternative is one of the possible courses of action available. Without alternatives, we have no decision. Good alternatives are (1) under our control, (2) significantly different, (3) potentially attractive, and (4) doable.


The quality of a decision is limited by the alternatives we consider – we can’t choose an alternative we haven’t thought of! Many people assume they have few or no alternatives. Yet there usually are many more alternatives than appear at first glance. Sometimes, we don’t like the alternatives that are immediately apparent. In both cases, we need to talk to and brainstorm with friends whose experience and judgment we respect, or we need to make wish lists – anything to get our creativity stimulated so we can envision alternative ways to address our decision.

How to generate creative alternatives

Ask Yourself

  • What are my alternative courses of action?

  • Are any potentially good alternatives not on the list?

  • What alternatives might others consider that I have missed?

  • Who might help me create better alternatives?

Ask your head

  • Are my alternatives logical (e.g., including not deciding now and revisiting the decision later)?

Ask your heart

  • Do my alternatives consider others I care about?

  • Do my alternatives seem to be a complete set?

  • What other alternatives might I consider?

  • What might someone I trust and admire do?

Tools and good practice

  • Brainstorming

  • Conversations with others

  • Wish lists

  • Creativity methods


Traps to avoid

  • Assuming no alternatives exist

  • Getting bogged down – too many alternatives, too many minor variations

  • Considering alternatives that are not doable

  • Accepting unnecessary limits to alternatives

  • Forgetting the “do nothing” alternative

For more information about good decision making, download our booklet

Decision Quality: The Fundamentals of Making Good Decisions