Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Choices, Choices, Choices - Too Many Choices

what's your choice graphic
(Photo credit: Pixabay/Geralt)

Have you experienced the discomfort of too many choices?

I recently went to lunch with a group of friends. Our first decision was where to go. The choices seemed endless, but we managed to narrow the choice down to three and eventually pick one.

The next choice was whether to wait for a table of seven to open up in 20-30 minutes or go somewhere else. We opted to stay. After all we where near the mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Our final decision was to select from a menu of 250 items. At that point, there were varied levels of decision-making angst. There were too many choices for many; some experienced  "analysis paralysis" and almost didn't order.

Nearly 18 years ago I began a similar journey the Professional Reading Program (PRP). In the early days of the program, we had a publication titled Wildland Fire Book on Books. This short publication provided students of fire with a selection of books to help develop their leadership art. The publication could never have more than 100 titles. One hundred titles! Really! How was I to select one book from around 100 that would be the "perfect" book. Every book must be good; each title made the LIST. I couldn't choose, not even from the short list provided at the front of the publication. I did finally started reading a few years later but actually selected a title outside the list.

Flash forward to the last five or so years. You can still access the Wildland Fire Book on Books in the PRP archives, but the yearly selections have decreased from 100 to 25 titles a few years ago and approximately 5 today.

If you follow Barry Schwartz and his book or talks on the paradox of choice, you will see that choices can shift the burden and responsibility of decision making to someone else. The 100-book list definitely put the burden to the student of fire, but may paralyzed others from even picking up a book.

Who knows how many books are enough or too little. Leaders are readers, so just read. Read what you want. Read what we suggest. Find a "happy medium" for your leadership journey. We just suggest you read.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge
To learn more about the paradox of choice, we present the following challenges:

Read Barry Schwartz's book The Paradox of Choice.
The Paradox of Choice book cover

Watch Barry Schwartz's TEDx talk "The Paradox of Choice."

About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

Thanks, Ted Adams, for this week's blog inspiration.

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