Offering a Continuum of Choices is a Trusted Collaborative Problem Solving Technique

When we’re stuck on a problem, and filled with negativity, the options lean to either/or.  When we articulate the spaces in-between, new possibilities emerge, a continuum of choices.   A continuum of choices reduces the risk of either/or, win/lose, and encourages collaborative problem solving.

offer a continuum


Offer a continuum

As a contract court mediator with Mediate BC, I often rely on continuum.  Lawsuits are filed.  The disputants arrive for the mediation. They come in with win/lose mindset.  “I’m right, you’re wrong”.  Their world is black and white.  Together, we identify other colours, options on the continuum.  Better to diverge on the problem, before converging on “the answer”.

A continuum expands the value pie.  A continuum offers more choices.  More choice is reflected in more ideas, options, and possibilities.  It gives us more to negotiate with.

A continuum offers a roadmap, in the form of If Then Else; “If A doesn’t work, then let’s try B.  If B doesn’t pan out, we’ll do C”. Having worked as a computer programmer in an earlier career, I still value the logic of an If Then Else flowchart, as an aid to understanding and visualizing the way forward.

In health care, a ‘continuum of care’ recognizes five stages of senior wellness, ranging from the well elderly to the ill elderly who require intensive medical care.  A continuum provides a framework for decision-making, as Lyndsay Green elaborates on, in her books about the choices the elderly have to make.

How much continuum?

It’s easy to get distracted, and overwhelmed, by content and choice.  So, when others’ attention is distributed, how much choice should we provide?

Three choices are optimal, according to psychologist Barry Schwartz, in The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.  Walt Disney always looked at a new idea from three different perspectives; the dreamer, the realist, and the critic.  Toastmasters understands “three”.  Open your talk. Three points. Close your talk.

Less (choice) is more works especially well in virtual contexts, where real estate is limited, compared to In Real Life.

A well-crafted continuum facilitates making the appropriate choice.

Where has continuum provided you value?

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