Too many choices?

On the same floor in our Toronto office is Cadbury Schweppes (they own a number of brands you would recognize, including Dentyne). Recently, I entered the elevator at the same time as one of their staff. I asked her how business was doing. She expressed that overall things were good, however, one of their new products in the "gum" line was not doing as well as expected. As we were chatting, I told her that my problem with gum is that there are too many choices – maybe they should consider less choice, not more.

Have you ever felt confused at the gum counter? When I was growing up, it was between Juicy Fruit, Double Bubble, and maybe 6 or 8 additional choices. It was a fairly simple decision to make. Now, it is high anxiety gum choice – what if I don’t like it? Will it really make my teeth white? AND it cleans my breath! WOW, do you have that in peppermint chocolate flavour?

Choices were not something that Henry Ford gave his clients when he was selling the Model T (I think I will take it in black!). Barry Schwartz has written a great book on this whole issue, titled "The Paradox of Choice". His premise is that while we have more choices, we seem to be less satisfied. More choice creates new problems.

This is a key issue with most professionals who are doing well in their careers; "Should I be a VP, or should I go and get an MBA? Should I start my own company, or should I buy a franchise?". Thirty years ago, you didn’t have the range of choices you have today.

So how do you choose? That is the million dollar question. I have 3 rules to suggest when attempting to decide :

Rule #1 Know the why In the midst of the decision making, it is easy to get caught up in the momentum of all the choices, and lose perspective of why are you have started down the path. Why are you at this decision point? Why do you need to make a decision? Is the anchor, the why, a short term reaction? Do you need more money, or is it that you really don’t like the environment? Be sure to take the time to understand why you are at this point and why you need to make a decision.

I will share points 2 and 3 with you next week. Until then, I would recommend choosing Double Bubble (regular flavour)!

This week’s 10 Minute WORKout: Spend ten minutes writing down the reasons that you are motivated to take action on a career decision.

Along the road with you, Alan Kearns