Book Summary: Creating Great Choices

Contemplate this: when you decide things in your business and personal life, are you making choices, or are you creating options?

There is a distinction, and that is the subject of this book. As author Roger Martin puts it, most individuals judge by weighing their possibilities and selecting the "least bad" option.

More is required for effective decision-making. Instead of accepting the options provided to us, it requires us to actively generate new ones.

In the next 12 minutes, come with us to look at a strategy for creating great choices every time.

Mental Models: How We Make Sense of the World

A picture of a brain with lightbulbs showing that we have mental models of the world built in our head.

We don't make judgments based on logical, unbiased logic like humans. There are several causes for this, but two certainly stand out.

To begin with, we are all prejudiced toward readily available data. It's as though what we perceive is all that exists.

Second, we build mental models of the world using the facts we have at our fingertips. As our experience grows, our mental models move closer and closer to reality, yet they never quite attain complete resolution. All models are approximations, inaccurate representations of the real world.

The following are some of the flaws in our mental models:

  1. Our models are unspoken. Our mental models are not something we are consciously aware of. Again, we feel we are simply witnessing reality.
  2. Our models are really clingy. We instinctively seek out additional evidence to support our current mental models, so they tend to strengthen over time, whether or not they are accurate representations of reality.
  3. Our models are straightforward. Our thoughts are sluggish and yearn for simplicity. Because the models aren't comprehensive enough, they nearly always break down in a keyway.

As a result, we become overconfident in our world knowledge and rush to answers that fit our mental models.

Integrative Thinking: A New Way To Make Decisions

Using creativity to identify options that will allow us to break free from the least bad option.

The authors say that the Creating Great Choices decision-making process is based on three fundamental concepts.


The first premise is that we must have a deeper knowledge of our thinking processes, beginning with our current mental models and their limitations.


The second premise is that we must have a better knowledge of others and how they think to identify holes in our own thinking and cooperation possibilities.

Some individuals confuse empathy with wondering how you would feel if you were in someone else's shoes.

Instead, it's about gaining a thorough grasp of how the other person is currently experiencing. This is asking questions and demonstrating a genuine desire to understand others rather than assumptions about their feelings and thoughts.

Empathy, fortunately, is a two-way street. The more empathy you demonstrate for others, the more empathy they will have for you.


The final point is that we must learn to use our creative potential to identify options that will allow us to break away from the trap of selecting the "least bad" alternative.

Here are five ideas to keep in mind while you work on your creative muscle.

  1. Begin by addressing the issue at hand. Constraints are necessary for creativity.
  2. Break free from the shackles of the blank sheet of paper. Don't be scared to start creating ideas based on current mental models and concepts. Creativity requires a starting point.
  3. Learn how to appreciate poor ideas. Having a lot of ideas leads to great ideas. Sometimes the seed of a brilliant idea may be found in a terrible concept.
  4. Build with the intention of thinking. Don't come up with abstract notions and concepts. You won't be able to test anything if you don't have anything to try.
  5. Allow yourself some time. Brilliant stuff, like any other creative endeavor, takes time.

We'll spend the remainder of the time now that we've covered the fundamentals.

Stage 1: Articulate the Models

A male individual having the issue in front of him and finding the two extreme solution.

The first step in the process is to learn as much as possible about the problem and prepare yourself to think differently about it.

There are four phases to this process.

1. Identify the issue

Begin by concisely stating the problem. Don't stress about making it perfect right away; you can always tweak it later if necessary. Simply ensure that everyone participating in the problem-solving process knows it and that a common commitment to solving it is established.

"How may we..." begins the finest problem statements.

2. Examine two extreme and diametrically opposed solutions to the situation.

For a variety of reasons, you begin with two models.

First, since two models are better than one, the process begins with the admission that there is more than one "correct" solution to the problem. Two is also preferable to ten since it is a more reasonable amount of options to consider. Remember that you're not likely to get either solution in the end.

Second, you may generate fruitful tension by establishing contrasting models. People will naturally lean towards one model or the other. Thus there will be controversy and discussion. This offers the conducive setting for creativity that you'll need to make a fantastic decision.

Here are a few points of contention.

  • Profit increase vs. revenue growth
  • Standardization vs. Customization
  • Local vs. Worldwide
  • Wide vs. Deep:
  • Success in the short term vs. success in the long run

3. Make a diagram of the two conflicting concepts.

This step's objective is to ensure that everyone knows the fundamentals of each model. It doesn't have to be extensive; it just has to offer enough information to bring everyone up to speed.

4. Describe the advantages of each approach and how it operates.

You set out the merits of each model in the final step of the first stage. The key contrast here is that you only consider the good aspects of each option rather than the bad aspects.

This will guarantee that each answer is appropriately examined in the phases that ensue, which will make good sense once we reach Stage #3.

Stage 2: Examine The Models

Examine the model by doing AB testing and finding the difference between the models.

After completing the first step, we go on to a more in-depth examination of each model.

The Tension Points

We begin by examining the places of tension between the models.

When are the points where combining the two solutions into one is difficult? What features of your answers, for example, make it impossible to achieve both at the same time if you're utilizing short-term profit and long-term profit models?

Consider the following factors while tensioning the models:

  • What similarities do we see between the models?
  • What differences do we see between the models?
  • What aspects of the two models do we appreciate the most?
  • What are the true sources of conflict?
  • What assumptions are we likely to make?
  • What are the major cause-and-effect factors at work?
  • What exactly is the issue we're attempting to resolve?

Stage 3: Explore The Possibilities

Finding the golden nugget in the treasure box and picking the golden nugget from each competing model.

At this point, we're trying to think of fresh ways to develop a better third option.

According to the writers, there are three paths that effective leaders have taken in their work. The aim is to come up with a few different solutions that you may develop, test, and enhance as time goes on.

Pathway #1: The Hidden Gem

You pick one golden nugget (a highly valued benefit) from each competing model and discard the remainder of the model in this path. Then you create a completely new model based on the golden nuggets as the foundation of the new method.

The trick to this approach is to ensure that the two golden nuggets you pick are not in direct conflict. That implies you'll have to find a way to replace all things you're getting rid of.

Tennis Canada, for example, redesigned their tennis curriculum by studying the successful tennis nations of the United States and France.

The American system was decentralized, allowing young players to work their way up from numerous tennis academies around the country, with the cream rising to the top.

The French system employed a centralized approach in which emerging talents were recognized at a young age and placed in a system that allowed them to grow in a structured manner.

Tennis Canada combined parts of both systems to establish a centralized structure for national training weekends that provide players with world-class competition and training but leave the rest of the time to the participants and their local coaches to grow.

Pathway #2: The Double Down

You start asking a question along this path:

Under what circumstances might a more intensive version of one model truly produce one of the other's critical benefits?

In this case, you have one model that you like, but it lacks a key feature that the other model offers. Then, by "doubling down" on your favorite model, you figure out how to obtain that critical advantage.

For example, The Vanguard Group's founder, Jack Bogle, was the first to offer index funds as an investment vehicle. He grappled with the conflict between acting on behalf of consumers and the financial industry's operational model of charging hefty prices regardless of return (which helped shareholders).

He resolved the conflict by reorganizing his company's legal structure. Consumers controlled the majority of the shares (think the mutual company or cooperative). Then, doubling down on the client emphasis, he invented the index fund, which eliminates most of the expenses associated with fund management.

Today, index funds account for 20% of all investing money in the United States.

Pathway #3: Decomposition

This approach allows you to preserve the majority, if not all, of the existing models. The idea is to deconstruct the real problem you're working on so that you can apply each model to the appropriate situation.

Instead of using solution A or solution B all of the time, you determine when and where solution A and solution B should be used.

The Rules of Engagement

There are a few ground principles that must be followed at this stage, as with any creative process:

  • As a thinking starter, use all three paths.
  • Defer making a decision. At this stage, don't disregard any suggestions.
  • Make use of other people's ideas. Make use of the "yes, and..." strategy.

Stage 4: Assess The Prototypes

A male evaluate the prototype and define each detail and run tests.

Finally, we've arrived at the point when we must evaluate the prototypes to choose which option to implement.

There are three key phases in the process.

  1. Define each alternative in detail, describing how it may function in practice. Here, you may use storytelling, imagery, and physical modeling. The goal is to provide a clear image of the answer without entirely constructing it.
  2. Understanding the circumstances in which each of your new options would be a successful solution to the problem you're trying to address. Make sure you've thought about whether the assumptions you've incorporated into the model are correct.
  3. Design and run tests on each option, gathering the information you'll need to make your final selection. You should approach this step with the mentality that you are creating tests to prove your ideas wrong, not right. This offers the advantage of exposing the solution to situations that will fail, allowing you to identify and fix any flaws before going live.


Now you know it: everything you need to make amazing decisions rather than average ones.

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