In a recent article entitled “Restrict My Choices, Please,” (HBR December 22, 2009), author Ron Ashkenas discusses the abundance of consumer choices, specifically the 10000+ I-Phone apps added each week, and the sense of overwhelm and exhaustion all of this causes. He asks the question, “To what extent would you welcome less choice?”
The first thing that came to my mind was an experience I had forty years ago.
I had gotten a job working in a Canadian rehabilitation hospital for two years which was, at best, a frenetic environment. Not long after my arrival, I discovered a charming, log-cabin restaurant that had a grand total of two items on the menu, T-Bone steak and pea soup.
At first, it was delightful not having to make any choices except whether or not to go there, so I went often. After awhile though, my job became less stressful, and my log-cabin dinners declined and then stopped altogether. Having no decisions to make was easy and a stress reliever — but eventually, it became boring.
Four decades later, I am relaxed, delighted with my life as an Executive Coach and exhilarated by all of the choices available to me, such as the many I-Phone apps. I’ve come to understand that what it boils down to is that I have a personality that thrives on novelty. Hmmmm…. perhaps the determining factors of whether we want more or fewer choices depends partly on personality traits and/or stress levels. What do you think?