I was in a meeting this past week that devolved into a rather heated discussion about which way to resolve a problem. People made reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue. In fact, any one of the approaches we discussed would have worked, just in different ways. Yet a couple of people insisted that theirs was the only solution.

This got me thinking about how tempting it can be to look for the single right way when making a decision. Some of this is due to habits and experience. We all develop a mindset over time. But then we risk that our perceptions will become so cemented in place that we can’t see any other possibilities or arguments.

Today’s menu-driven technology also plays a role. The endless choices we face so permeate our daily lives that we just begin to settle for the options on the screen. This can be especially true for those who have come of age immersed in this environment. They’ve never known anything different.

At other times, this mindset can be the result of someone’s insistence. I have attended any number of seminars where the speaker informs us that the tactic that he or she is teaching is the absolute best way to solve the problem. Nothing else compares. In the process, I have chased more than one “bright shiny object” only to find out it wasn’t the answer for me. As a result, I now turn my crap detector on whenever someone becomes too insistent that theirs is the best strategy.

So, what are the take-ways from all this? First, clarify what the outcome is before trying to solve the problem. The clearer the understanding, the more likely you will see that there might be more than one solution. Then you can weigh the pros and cons of each.

Second, be open to having your mindset challenged. Sometimes, people become insistent about a particular solution because they can’t see past the limitations of their own perceptions. The best decision makers I know are aware of this tendency and work to remain open, even if it’s uncomfortable or the solution they’ve thought of is not as good as someone else’s.

Third, be collaborative. When working with a group to solve a problem or make a decision, use inclusive language. Rather than looking for why other people’s approaches won’t work, seek to compare. Ask the same questions of each possible solution and encourage everyone else to do the same. That way, problem can be solved, or the decision made, in a thoughtful, rather than emotional, manner.

After all, it’s more important to get to the best outcome than worrying about who had the winning solution, isn’t it?

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