Tuesday, 15 April 2008

I could have saved them the research

Too many choices -- good or bad -- can be mentally exhausting

To which I respond, "No shit, sherlock."

If I had to pick the number one reason why large organisations bog down, and decision making starts to take forever, its this.

I can't tell you the number of days I've gone home, mentally exhausted, unable to decide if I want water or milk with my dinner. Its not because of the volume of work, its the number of decisions I have to make. Big or small, every single one chips away until I am a pile of mush that can barely make the effort to get in the car and drive home.

And I see it in senior managers above me. The larger the responsibility, the more decisions to make. Then managers start to use decision avoidance techniques "Find out what X person thinks", "Give me more data", "Re-quote it with another vendor" etc. etc.

You can feel your capacity for making a decision fade away through the day.

Having to make the choice was the key. It did not matter if the researchers told them to make choices, or if it was a spontaneously made choice, or if making the choice had consequences or not.

“There is a significant shift in the mental programming that is made at the time of choosing, whether the person acts on it at that time or sometime in the future. Therefore, simply the act of choosing can cause mental fatigue,” says Vohs. “Making choices can be difficult and taxing, and there is a personal price to choosing.”

And I would bet you that this is probably a large factor for society overall in voter turnout, environmental activism, social justice issues etc. Avoiding these issues, and staying the course, involves fewer decisions that have to be made.

And if I'm completely honest with myself, this paragraph probably describes why I blog at work:

The participants who had to make important choices involving coursework spent less time solving the math problems and more time engaging in other distractions such as playing video games or reading magazines, compared to participants who were not asked to make choices prior to that point

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