Re: Perception training exercises LO2884

John O'Neill (
Wed, 20 Sep 95 11:34:47 +1000

Replying to LO2868 --

You note that your workshop focuses on avoiding judgments and the pursuit
of "right and wrong." To that end I would offer up a very valuable
observation I learned from a former AT&T executive who was not American by
birth. He noted that american management often rushes, when faced with a
choice, to assume that in an "a" "b" choice, one MUST choose between the
two. More often than not the most beneficial choice is to find a way to
choose BOTH "a" and "b". Such a middle ground avoids the fruitless
pursuit of "what is right" and "what is wrong."

I have tried this mental frame on numerous occasions. Regardless of how I
frame the choice, the basic assumption is that one MUST choose between an
"a" and "b" alternative. I have yet to see either an individual or group
voluntarily explore the option of going with an "a + b" option. Most
managers feel that they prove their insight or intellectual horsepower by
the ever so clever route they pursued in reaching the conclusion to select
"a" vs "b." In most of these instances a better choice would have been
the "A+B" option. Unfortunately most decision makers assume that this
most profitable middle ground is not a legitimate choice.

[more stuff cut]

I hate to do this, but ....
The military decision-making process often does involve the commander
selecting multiple options, and combining them into a joint plan.

Why do I hate to say this? Because selecting multiple "options" is often
simply selecting a Navy "option" and Air Force "option" and an Army
"option" and putting them together into an integrated plan.

If I understood Bruce's comments correctly, he is actually talking about
selecting two integrated plans, and being able to coalesce these options
into something bigger and better. To do this, IMHO, requires stepping back
from the weeds and being able to understand the context in which a
decision is being made.

How do you understand the context, or bigger picture? I don't know the
answer - but I know it when I see it !!! Seriously, the people we view as
visionaries or leaders seem to have the ability to put problems in context
(or reframe the problem using George Polya's terms). The strategic
planning process of organisations, if done correctly, is all about this
problem reframing process. Now, does anyone have any ideas on how to do
this ..... ?

John O'Neill
DSTO C3 Research Centre, Australia