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APC lesson plan

6. APC lesson plan

APC: Alternatives, Possibilities, Choices 

This lesson plan is for the APC lesson workcard.


APC is a crystallization of the process of deliberately trying to find alternatives.

In taking action or making a decision, there may seem to be few alternatives, but a deliberate effort to find alternatives can change the whole situation. The APC operation is an attempt to focus attention directly on exploring all the alternatives or choices or possibilities - beyond the obvious ones.

In looking at a situation, it is unnatural to go beyond an explanation which seems satisfactory, and yet there may be other possibilities which may be even more likely if-only an effort is made to find them.


This deliberate search for alternatives applies not only to action but also to explanations. When an obvious explanation presents itself, it is very unnatural to look beyond it to try and find other possible explanations. That is why it is useful to have a device which can take one beyond natural inclinations.


The APC is an antidote to emotional reaction. Whenever a student seems to be looking at something in a rigid way, he/she can be asked to do an APC. If the student can do this then the result is either a change in view or an adherence to the original view, now due  to preference. APC can be applied to other subjects. 

As in the CAF lesson, the emphasis in teaching is on what has been left out. That is to say, the groups try to find different alternatives and choices for the same situation to demonstrate that even when you are sure that there cannot be any other possibilities, you may still find some if you make a deliberate effort to look for them. As with the CAF lesson, it is all too easy to suppose that one naturally looks at all possible alternatives anyway - but it is not true. To go beyond the obvious and the satisfactory possibilities, one needs a deliberate device like the APC.


PRACTICE ITEM 1. A man goes into a bar and asks for a drink of water. The woman behind the bar gives him a drink of water and then suddenly screams. What possible explanations are there?

Here, the groups are not allowed any actual thinking time. Instead, groups or individuals suggest possible explanations until someone hits on the suggestion given below. The other explanations can be listed. If no one guesses the explanation, the teacher can reveal this.

Suggestions of possible explanation:

  • The man was hiccupping which is why he asked for a glass of water.

  • The girl knew that hiccups were often cured by a sudden fright so she screamed to frighten the man.

PRACTICE ITEM 2. You discover that your best friend is a thief. What alternatives do you have?

Groups work for 3 minutes on this. At the end of this time the teacher asks a group for the first alternative and then another group for another alternative until no more are forthcoming.


  • Tell him you know he is a thief.

  • Report him.

  • Threaten to report him.

  • Drop him as a friend after telling him why.

  • Drop him without telling him why.

  • Say how much you hate stealing without saying that you know him to be a thief.

  • Get someone else who is not a friend to talk to him.

  • Leave a note in his desk, etc.

PRACTICE ITEM 3. The Post Office is losing a lot of money. If you were running it, what alternatives would you have?

Time allowed is 5 minutes. At the end of this time one group is designated to give its alternatives. Other groups and individuals are then invited to add to these one at a time. 


  • Charge more for postage or telephones.

  • Employ fewer people and have a slower delivery service.

  • Introduce more automation.

  • Make people collect their own letters from a central place.

  • Charge more for certain types of mail such as business mail.

  • Offer more money-making services.


Open discussion with the class as a whole, acting as individuals rather than groups.

  • What is the point of looking for more alternatives?

  • How do you tell which is the most likely or best alternative?

  • When do you stop looking for other possibilities?

  • When is it most useful to find new choices?

Learning points

The groups look at the learning points given in the student workcards. They are asked to pick out the principle they think is most important. The groups can also be asked to criticize any one of the principles or to make up a principle of their own. 

These de Bono Thinking Lessons are free to use by parents, guardians and teachers. (This means on this website, or to print and use in home or in the classroom. Not for further distribution or commercial use). 

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