Development of Options
Making decisions is primarily an analytical process. In contrast, the development of alternatives or options is primarily a creative process. While “development of options” could reasonably be seen as part of the problem definition process, its importance, potential for impact, and very different requisite mindset make it worth considering separately. Optionality is the opposite of strategy. Strategy is the decision today to avoid otherwise good opportunities in the future. Optionality is the preparation to maximize the number of good opportunities in the future. Strategy is building a highway to a hunting ground. Optionality is baiting all your traps. The biggest advantage small companies have over large ones is agility. Large companies need strategy (e.g. because getting 100,000 people to pivot is really hard), but make no mistake, all else equal, optionality beats strategy every time.
Analogy may serve well here. If you were trying to decide between application to the local university and a university on the other side of the state, you would consider the admission costs and requirements, the academic and social offerings, and a host of other comparative factors. You could weigh them, and come up with a decision. But perhaps you should consider another school in the state, or out of state, or out of country. Perhaps you should consider taking a gap year, getting some work experience, or traveling before applying. Perhaps you should consider not going to university at all. Clearly, if your mind is focused on the choice between “A” and “B”, it is unlikely that you’ll decide on “7”. This is why we recommend a brainstorming session to expand your options before taking any serious decision. Depending on the decision, this may require more than a paper-based exercise, and could include research, partnering, or other activities that provide a richer set of options between which you’ll ultimately decide. No matter the decision, “doing nothing” and “deferring the decision” are always options. They’re often poor options, but they should always be considered.
Before or after problem definition, or both.
The only reason not to develop more options is a limitation on the resources required to develop and rank them.
An appreciation of the value of optionality as opposed to strategy.