Chapter 4:  Alternatives—What can I do?


Creative Problem Structuring –Alternatives


Alternative:  is a possible course of action, which often can be identified by the use of verbs


List examples of an alternative:




Often times we are controlled by our perspectives.  That is to say we often ignore possible alternatives, or don’t even think about them because we are so focused on the problem.


Nine dot problem:  draw four contiguous straight lines (without lifting your pencil) so that they go through the nine dots.  [it is possible to do it with three]


Our mind starts out with the assumption that you must stay within the box to draw the lines.  This puzzle can’t be solved without thinking outside the box.




Analysis of Values, Alternatives, Causes, and Resources;  and Alternative Checklists



We examined our values, what is important to us.  Now it is important to use those values to suggest alternatives.


Analysis of Values, uses a value focused search to work backward from our goal.  This is a Heuristic.


Example, how many people have looked up the answer of a math problem so you can work backwards to figure out how to get there?  While this is problem solving this is an example of how it can be used in decision making.


Using the goal and working backwards is more efficient and often more effective way of processing information about decisions.


1.  It is easier to generate alternatives if you are trying to satisfy one value at a time…. 

a.  Produce more alternatives

b.  Produce higher quality alternatives

c.  The more specific the value the easier time you have generating an alternative associated with it.

d.  Example…if one of your friends is vegetarian, and you are going out to dinner you automatically make a list of places where the vegetarian friend can find a selection of food they can eat.




1.  Rank-order your values from most important to least important.

2.  Take your most important value, and list all possible alternatives that satisfy your value

3.  Do this for each value of your well structured value set. 


Analysis of Alternatives


4.  Compare the alternatives starting with the most important value…does one satisfy all the values you have.  This is called creating dominance for an alternative….

5.  While combining them you will come up with combinations that don’t make sense  but you may want to force fit these ideas.



Analysis of Causes


Good alternatives cause good outcomes.


1.  Think backward from outcomes to causes, can gives use enormous incite to what our problem constitutes.

2.  Example—given diagnosis gives to mind alternatives for treatments.

3.  Beware of a faulty causal analysis—which can be driven by biases based in defensive avoidance or other things.  Genuine causes lead to good alternatives.

4.  Criminal justice system, Jail size, and court back up….(as the true cause—book discusses it, worked on it).

5.  Fundamental Attribution Error can lead to faulty causes of behavior in determining causes behind people’s actions—say in decisions involving other people.

6.  Temporal Contiguity leads us to believe that changes that occur close to the event are causes of the event…. Than some other reason.  (crime rate and certain politicians….economic changes…etc. sept 11….but what else could have been the cause?)

7.  Key to sound causal analysis is the principle of controlled comparison.


To justify the claim that A causes B, you must find that B changes when A is changed and nothing else is changed.


There could BE OTHER causes to look for.


Sometimes you may need to examine situations where somewhere where B doesn’t occur.  For example, The Space Shuttle. (Only looking at situations where the problem occurred not where the problem didn’t occur.



Hard drugs and marijuana use is an example of faulty causal judgment.

Correlation and Ice Cream?


Look for different causes….  Child in the store screams, mom buys him a candy bar….


Analysis of resources…


1.  You have to make due with limited resources (like money in buying a car)

2.  Can be an effective way of generating alternatives

3.  Story of grandmother and resources…but using what you have.

4.  Vocational planning resources and abilities should be taken into account…what’s available given one’s location and income.


SWOT analysis checklist







This calls attention to both positive and negative resources within oneself, and outside of ones self.


Alternative Checklists:  You can use checklists as well, which have been gone over in previous chapters, and will be gone over again in the chapter on Uncertainty.


Classification, Analysis into Sub-Problems


What do you do if you have too many alternatives?


Evaluate broad classes of alternatives


Example, What type of Car?  What area you want to explore in grad school, before you look at schools?  Others?  You can reject an entire class, without having to evaluate alternatives…


Analysis your problem into sub-problems


This makes your decision more manageable when there are a great number of alternatives.  Identify your sub-goals, they tend to be relatively independent of each other.


Buy a Car…what are subgoals


1.  How much money you want to spend?

2.  Whether or not you want to finance?

3.  What overall type of car you wish to buy

4.  Make and model



Criteria for a Well-Structured Set of Alternatives (Few Criteria)


1.  At least two alternatives (preferably more) [I want to see at least 3]


2.  Alternatives that are mutually exclusive:  Should be possible to go on one path and only one path—save for resource issues (which will be discussed later)


3.  Alternatives that differ substantially from one another (desired but not required)


Chapter 5:  The Mighty Decision Table:  How do I choose


The Decision Latter—start from the bottom of it.  Start with the most-simplest method and move up only as necessary. (For this class I will ask you to work your way thought several steps).


Start with the important considerations, bringing in details only when and if needed.


1.   Prioritized List:  Rank order your alternatives

a.       You can do this by either Intuition or actual analysis

b.       Analysis breaks the problem into sub problems while intuition takes into account everything at once.

c.       Analysis takes longer, requires training…but one isn’t necessarily as good as another.

d.       General rule…if decision is important you should do both…. (put intuition away, take a break, come back and do and analysis).

e.       If they are not in agreement, either one or both could be wrong…this means that there is an error.

f.          Intuition is important, do not confuse it with biased feelings however (flat earth)

2. Reasons versus outcomes.

a.       You can choose among a set of alternatives for an alternative that has good consequences or good reasons for being chosen….to justify it to other. (example voting)


Screening:  *Will go back to this more in depth later…


Decision Tables:  The idea of a controlled comparison


Allows for attention to be drawn to cells that are overlooked


Acts as a form of stimulus variation: seeking of dominance of an alternative


Fact table:  getting facts is crucial to decision making….


You must be willing to put your values on your alternatives to the test, or this will end up being a self enhancing belief….