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Find a Third Alternative - Step Three

If you read yesterday's post, you know that step one in finding a Third Alternative is to jump the net and step two is to write new specs. Now we are ready for step three.

Step Three: Brainstorm!

Sometimes, one of you can do the brainstorming on your own. You look at your new specs and ideas start popping. Suddenly, there it is. The Third Alternative, the one you will like as much as you liked your initial idea and your mate will like as much as his or her first option.

After twenty years of marriage in the same house, a friend learned about Third Alternatives. He and his wife had disagreed for twenty years about where to store the can opener in the kitchen drawers. When he realized their specs for a Third Alternative were "in this drawer" and "in that drawer," he came up with a solution on the spot. He bought a second can opener. No more disagreement. He got what he wanted and made his wife happy. Not bad for $1.97!

The same was true for my husband and me. The moment we laid out our specs for a Third Alternative, the same idea occurred to both of us.

Our specs: laundry room, well lit, with open storage shelves, no soap odors in a living area, no unfinished basement between the laundry room and the rest of the house. We both grabbed for the house plans to point out our great idea, which was a finished hallway from the stairs to the laundry room. We made the short hallway roomy, gave it an oak floor, white walls, and recessed lighting. A door off the hallway opened into the family room. Another went into the laundry room. And we were both delighted with it.

The answer is not always obvious. Sometimes we need to do a lot more brainstorming. The idea is to keep tossing out ideas without evaluating any of them. The really far-fetched ones may be impractical, but they free our minds to be more creative.

When brainstorming a way to meet all of the specs for the Third Alternative, two minds are probably four times as successful as one person working alone. When this is not enough, invite others to brainstorm with you. Choose creative friends and acquaintances. Don't tell them the first two alternatives or who wants what. Give them only the new specs and ask them to think of anything close, then build on it. And, if you can, get several of them together at the same time, so they can feed off each other's ideas.

You have new technology to help, too. Put your specs on Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #IdeaParty on Twitter to invite a group that has a regular brainstorming session on Thursdays.

I am also happy to help you brainstorm a way to meet your new specifications. I love brainstorming. Just show up at one of my free teleclasses or add a comment to this post.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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