Dealing with a sudden surge in course members: using Option Solving?

About two weeks ago, I was in the busy office of a faculty department head, who was in the good position of finding a tremendous uptick in student enrollment for his foundation IT courses. However, he was about to go on out of the country on vacation for a week, was not permitted to hire fresh full-time faculty for budgetary reasons, and had limited space to add more classes. Again, budgetary constraints would make class space a challenge, too.  He was almost fit to be tied, so I offered to reintroduce him to option solving and at the same time encourage him to feel fortunate about having a student increase rather than decrease. This point created a wizened smile at the get go.

We quickly started developing a suitable question –starting with What– which included picking four considerations: out of a total of eight. See our Latest Example Option Solving Picture to note the four picked: one of which was “Maintain academic standards.”

His question then kindled two yin and yang “bookends,” so as to create an option solving framework: in addition to getting his creative intuitive juices churning. You will see they came out as, “Walk away from the issue” and “Hire a F/T faculty member come hell or high water.” Both were clearly options, but our example will indicate why they were unacceptable. The rejection of these helped to prime his intuition for more plausible options.

You will see in our example that he built up a picture of five plausible options: one of which was “Get resumes for more new adjuncts” – Option C. We normally aim for at least five, so as to stretch participants’ creative capabilities. It was a challenge for him to develop five, but it made him feel he had explored all reasonable possibilities.

At that moment, I reintroduced emotional distancing by covering up his option solving picture to allow gestation time for his intuitive mind to subconsciously explore the depths of his hidden experiences for similar options and successes. We did this by taking a 10 minute break to talk about his forthcoming vacation, which was very much at the forefront of his mind; especially as he would be joining up with his son’s family abroad.. After that, we returned to his turned-over option solving picture and he was invited to quickly review it and pick one of the five plausible options. We purposely use the term picture, since our intuitive mind is much better at absorbing pictures than words.

Once his speedy choice was made, I invited him to either consider Next Steps or continue with a Peel the Onion exercise (where he would take his chosen option and redo the whole option solving exercise again to find a subset of meaningful action options). Owing to a shortage of time, he chose next steps. These are left in the picture for you to see. It is important for next steps to be extracted then and there, while a participant’s mind is focused on the issue. Such activity takes advantage of the freshness of issues in one’s mind, plus the intuitive mind being primed to come up with the best steps. This encourages immediate action and momentum.  

If you have an example of your own, please share it with this blogger, through the COMMENTS area.  Thanks Option Solving. (NOTE: Next posting in 2 weeks: “Retaining a key family member in the business.” Let’s have your COMMENTS or go to to connect with the blogger.)



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