Taking the Confusion Out of Choosing

by Sheena Iyengar
published by IESE Insight, 2014
Ref ART-2452-E
 

Today we have more choices in any given domain or our lives than we have ever had before, writes the author of this article. And, she points out, she’s not just referring to choices about where to live or what to eat. ‘Choice has gotten way more complicated,’ she writes. ‘Besides the mundane choices, we now have more life-and-death choices to make, on a scale never seen before.’

Not choosing is not an option, but the proliferation of choice need not be dire news. This article, partly based on her award-winning book, The Art of Choosing, argues that we can benefit from choice if we commit ourselves to some reeducation and training with regard to two important areas:

First, we have to change our own attitudes toward choice and recognise that it is not an unconditional good, and secondly, we must take steps to counteract limits on our cognitive abilities and resources so that we gain the most benefit from choice with the least effort.

The author shares the results of her in-depth research to provide guidance on how to exercise choice wisely. Rather than feeling paralysed in the face of choice, she offers a series of steps to help negotiate a way through. Even natural leaders have to work at exercising choice to avoid being seduced by it and need to recognise that choice has its limitations and may sometimes need to be relinquished to appreciate its true power.

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About the author

Sheena Iyengar is S.T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division of the Columbia Business School.

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