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History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.
Abba Eban, 1915 - 2002
Israeli diplomat

Problem solving series

2. Developing/weighing alternatives

Look at your problems in different ways; find a new perspective that you haven't thought of before.
Brainstorming, or rapid noting of alternatives no matter how silly, is an excellent discovery process.
Once you have listed or mapped alternatives, be open to their possibilities. Make notes on those that:

  • need more information
  • are new solutions
  • can be combined or eliminated
  • will meet opposition
  • seem promising or exciting

Weigh Alternatives

After listing possible alternatives,
evaluate them without prejudice
no matter how appealing or distasteful

Consider all criteria
While a suitable solution may solve the problem, it may not work if resources aren't available, if people won't accept it, or if it causes new problems

Select the best alternative

  • Don't consider any alternative as "perfect solution."
    If there were, there probably wouldn't be a problem in the first place
  • Consider your intuition,
    or inner feelings in deciding on a course of action
  • Return to your trusted outsider:
    Is there something you missed?
    Does he/she see a problem with your solution?
  • Compromise
    Consider compromise when you have a full grasp of the problem, and your alternatives. Competing solutions may yield a hybrid solution.

Techniques in weighing alternatives:

Thomas Saaty's Analytical Hierarchy Matrix.

List alternatives in columns and rows as depicted in the matrix above. Starting with Alternative A, go across columns in the matrix and rate each alternative against all the others.

When the alternative under consideration has
more value than the others

Then give the more valuable alternative a score of 1

When the alternative has
less value than the others

give the less valuable alternative a score of 0

Add the scores for each row/alternative; highest score is the highest rated alternative according to the criteria you used. In the matrix above, Alternative C scores highest, so it's the highest rated alternative

SFF Matrix: Suitability, Feasibility & Flexibility

Suitability Feasibility Flexibility Total
Alternative A
Alternative B
Alternative C
Alternative D

Rate each alternative onscale of 1 - 3 for its

  • Suitability: refers to
    the alternative itself, whether it is ethical or practical. Is it appropriate in scale or importance? an adequate response? too extreme?
  • Feasibility: refers to
    How many resources will be needed to solve the problem (i.e. Is it affordable?)
    How likely will it solve the problem?
  • Flexibility: refers to
    your ability to respond
    to unintended consequences, or openness to new possibilities? the alternative itself, and whether you can control outcomes once you begin.

Total a score for each alternative, compare, prioritize your alternatives...

Problem solving overview

1. Defining the problem/considering causes/gathering information |
2. Developing/weighing alternatives |
3. Implementing decisions/monitoring progress |
4. Graphic overview of process |
Adaptive decision making | Managing by exception | Managing stress |
Motivating yourself | Problem based learning