We commonly approach problems by asking ourselves, “What should I do?” Asking “What could I do?” helps us recognize alternatives to the choice we are facing.
— John Beshears and Francesca Gino1
An alternative is a possible course of action, defining what could be done in the context of the frame for a decision. Without alternatives, it's hard to get what we want out of life. In fact, a decision without alternatives isn't really a choice. Since a decision doesn't get any better than the best alternative, it's important to develop a good set of choices that truly represents the range of what we can do. It takes creativity and disciplined effort to find the alternatives that will help us get the most of what we truly want.
Consider a situation faced by the authors' firm, Strategic Decisions Group (SDG), several years ago. For years, SDG had leased first-class office space at favorable rates in a prestigious location on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California. SDG is a boutique consulting firm, but it routinely competes with larger enterprises. Consequently, the choice of headquarters space was very important to the senior members of SDG who were selling against the larger firms.
The building on Sand Hill Road was in a beautiful natural setting. Offices were spacious, and the facility housed a famous collection of modern American art. Convenient access to Highway 280, San Francisco International Airport, and Stanford University was the icing on the cake. ...