navbar 4Resource papers in action research

Option one-and-a-half


This is a resource file which supports the regular public program "areol" (action research and evaluation on line) offered twice a year beginning in mid-February and mid-July.  For details email Bob Dick  or

...  in which I describe a dialectic group process which develops two opposed options into a third and better option



If there are two solutions to a problem or situation, there are forms of decision analysis which choose between them.  Option one-and-a-half instead uses the two solutions to develop a third solution.  It tries to retain most of the advantages of both while removing as many disadvantages as possible.

It can be applied to more than two solutions;  in practice this is difficult, warranted only for important decisions or when no options appear satisfactory.

Option one-and-a-half is a dialectical approach.  This is its strength.  It can often engineer agreement out of disagreement. 


The main phases of the technique are as follows.

1.  List the two solutions (options).  Use questions for clarification to ensure that all participants understand both solutions.

2.  Use processes for information collection and analysis to identify the important advantages and disadvantages of option 1.  Do the same for option 2.

3.  Use creative information generation procedures to develop option one-and-a-half, a best-of-both-worlds combination of options 1 and 2.

One approach is now described in more detail, followed by a description of a common application. 


1.  List the solutions

List the two solutions.  Give participants a chance to understand the two options by asking "questions for clarification only".

1.01   List the two options at the top of a sheet of newsprint.

1.02   Supporters of one option may ask questions for clarification about the other option.  Debating the merits of the options is not permitted.  Those asking questions may only request information, while those replying must limit themselves to answering the question. 


2.  Analyse the options

List first the advantages and then the disadvantages of option 1.  Select the key advantages and disadvantages.  Then repeat this for option 2.

2.01   Use information-collection processes to list the advantages for option 1.

2.02   Use similar processes to list the disadvantages for option 1.

2.03   Supporters for option 2 vote to choose the key disadvantages of option 1.

2.04   Supporters for option 1 vote to choose its key advantages.

Then use the same procedures to list the advantages and disadvantages for option 2 and select the most important.  Supporters of option 1 choose the disadvantages, supporters of option 2 the advantages. 


3.  Devise a third option

Use idea-generation techniques to list possible ways of achieving the best of both option 1 and option 2.

3.01   Use idea-generation processes and perhaps creative problem solving techniques to list ideas for achieving the best of both options.  This is done as a joint problem solving activity by the supporters of both options.  Small groups or pairs (equal numbers of the two groups of supporters) are often appropriate.  List ideas as they are contributed.

3.02   Use a voting procedure, cyclic if necessary, to reduce the list of suggestions to a manageable length.

3.03   Have participants combine the key suggestions into one solution, which by definition is an attempt at a best-of-both-worlds approach (that is, option one-and-a- half).

3.04   Check that the solution does avoid the key disadvantages of both options. 


Option one-and-a-half often works very well when participants are trying to deal with a problem which they find upsetting, especially where some other group of people are part of the problem.

In such a situation, the only solutions they can find may be examples of fight and flight.  Analysing advantages and disadvantages typically shows that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages for both options.

This realisation provides the motivation for participants to develop a compromise which is more realistic and more advantageous.

Trainers may be interested to know that participants can construct a description of assertion (in the technical sense of the term) using this technique.  Assertion is option one-and-a-half for option 1 of aggression and option 2 of appeasement.




Copyright (c) Bob Dick 1995-2000.  This document may be copied if it is not included in documents sold at a profit, and this and the following notice are included.

This document can be cited as follows:

Dick, B.  (1997) Option one-and-a-half [On line].  Available at




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Bob Dick;  this version 1.04w last revised 20000103

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