So, the question that arises is: how do we go about creating options? While there is no single formula that will work well in all situations, here are a few pointers which can help:
Evaluate Objectively: It is important that we assess the situation that we face on its merit. What are the assumptions that we are making? What if those assumptions are not true? What are the constraints that are there? Can we work around those constraints? These are some of the questions that we should be asking. In many cases, we will find that for a small increase in personal effort, time or money, we can create situations where we have much greater control of what is likely to happen.
Understand Probabilities: As former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin writes in his book, In An Uncertain World: People who have worked with me know I dont believe in certainty. We should also not do so. We obviously cannot prepare for black swan events, but we should also not go to the other extreme of believing that what we want will happen. There are probabilities of various events occurring, and if we can mentally think through the chances, we can then better understand the alternatives.
Be Dispassionate: Emotions and feelings can impair decision-making, and force us down paths which we otherwise may not take. It could be positive or negative feelings about places or people. While we do want past experiences to have a bearing on the future, we need to separate out those bits which can bring needless bias into the decisions we make.
Be Alert: It is the point I had made earlier about Lifes Little Clues. If we can just be that little extra careful and observant, we will see that there are many signals that are there around us like the shepherd sees in Paulo Coelhos The Alchemist.
Experimentation Matters: We need to create the environment where we have multiple choices. We can only do this if we try out different things. This is especially true at an early stage of a new venture wherein it may not always be clear which of the ideas may work. Keeping an open mind with some trials to reinforce ones views can help us reduce errors.
Think Chess: Chess (and other games of strategy) can teach us a lot. We can either be reactive, or we can do some planning by considering some of the paths that the game can take. If we are willing to think a little ahead in Chess and work on creating situations which benefit us, why not do the same in real life?
Sub-optimal Optimisation: We have to be careful what we need to optimise. It is not easy getting all three of faster, better, cheaper. So, we need to consider what we are willing to give up in order to ensure we get the others. On a lighter note, it is the difference in knowing when to book a hotel through Priceline.com and Hotels.com one gives you a good price without the flexibility of location, and the other gives the choice of the hotel, though the price you are likely to pay is going to be higher.
Creating options is what life is about. A little thinking ahead of time can make a big difference as we go through our personal and professional lives. In the words of Jean Nidetch: It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.
TECH TALK Creating Options+T