Engineer Inclusion

Try this tool: What else might be true?

Try this tool!

Five fingers.
Five words.
One BOLD question.

what else might be true? animated gif with hand counting to five

In my quest to enhance decision-making and broaden perspectives, I’ve developed a tool that has become incredibly valuable in my daily life. I call it the “What else might be true?” Five-finger countdown. Allow me to share with you its origins, applications, and the magic behind its effectiveness.

Back in my late twenties, I had a conversation with my mentor, Tegwin Pulley, that reshaped how I approach challenges. Frustrated by a situation where I felt targeted professionally, Tegwin posed a simple yet powerful question: “What else might be true?” Initially baffled, I soon realized she was nudging me away from tunnel vision and towards a more open-minded perspective.

How often have you found yourself ensnared by assumptions, blind to alternate possibilities? It’s a common pitfall—one that wastes time, strains relationships, and leads to poor decisions rooted in cognitive biases. The “What Else Might Be True?” approach addresses this issue head-on.

image of a rabbit in a hole that looks like a puzzle with the question overlaid "Have you ever found yourself lost in aRABBIT HOLE OF ASSUMPTIONS and blind to other possibilities? "


To make this strategy more tangible, I started using my hand to count five possible alternatives—mirroring the five words in the phrase. Imagine your hand expanding along with your mind, opening doors to new ideas while sidestepping the confines of biased thinking. This simple gesture prevents us from tumbling into costly rabbit holes of misconception.

Consider the scenario where someone misses a deadline. Our initial conclusion might label them as lazy, affecting our interactions moving forward. By employing the five-finger countdown and contemplating five alternative explanations, we shift towards expansive thinking:

  1. Maybe something personal is affecting their performance.
  2. Maybe my communication about the deadline was unclear.
  3. Maybe a technical glitch caused the oversight.
  4. Maybe conflicting priorities diverted their attention.
  5. Maybe reaching out with empathy could yield insights.

By embracing this broader perspective, we curb our inclination towards fundamental attribution errors and cultivate a more human-centered outlook.

The Invitation

I encourage you to try the “What else might be true?” Five-finger countdown with colleagues, students, family, and anyone else in your circle. Together, we can transform our thought patterns, enhance empathy, and make more informed choices. To delve deeper into this tool, watch this brief 1-minute clip from a past workshop where I explain its nuances.

Let’s embrace the power of diverse viewpoints and foster better understanding. The world is full of possibilities—let’s explore them together.

Share your thoughts

What do you think about this tool? How can using this question help you improve relationships? How can it help you to become a more inclusive leader? Give it a try and report back what you experience. 

Headshot of Dr. Meagan Pollock

Meagan Pollock, PhD

Dr. Meagan Pollock envisions a world where personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving potential, and where kindness, inclusivity, and conservation prevail.

An international speaker, teacher, engineer, and equity leader, her mission is to provide services, tools, and resources that inspire awareness and initiate action.

As an engineer turned educator, Meagan Pollock is focused on engineering equity into education and the workforce.

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We help people intentionally and systematically engineer equity and inclusion into their organizations: driving positive outcomes and effectively supporting employees and the community.

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