Humans are bad at eliminating options, and it costs us dearly in job performance, relationships and effectiveness, says an article in today’s International Herald Tribune that reviews a book by Dan Ariely called Predictably Irrational. According to experiments carried out by Ariely, a professor of bahavioural economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), people will go to great lengths to avoid narrowing their choices, and will pay dearly to do so. The theory is that eliminating options is experienced as a loss, and we seek to avoid the related pain. For me, this was a stunning revelation, which will heavily influence my personal and professional choices as well as how I engage in public relations.
It also explains why many people seem to be bad at strategic planning and project implementation. Whether in the office or when dealing with volunteers in the International Association of Business Communicators, no matter how many times people are reminded of limited resources, I have witnessed them still wanting to do it all…and in the end accomplishing little or nothing.
Other implications for PR include the fact that when we are addressing issues that reduce people’s choices, we need to understand the psychological aspect and help people both deal with their loss and embrace the benefits that arise from having a greater focus.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to shut this door, because it’s costing me on other fronts.