Religion is no longer the opiate of the masses: choice is.
Having spent a considerable portion of my adult life convincing consumers that a 57th variant of corn flakes or mouthwash was all they needed to scale the dizzy peaks of enlightenment and transcend into a pantheon of personal bliss, I gather that there’s a reason such transcendence consistently failed to materialise.
We don’t want choice. We hate choice. We’d be much closer to achieving transcendence bitching about having only one channel of cable TV to watch than drowning in the miasma of our own inadequacy for being unable to surf the overwhelm and chose between 531 channels that are actually available to us. We have so much information that we are not only forced to be superficial in our assessment of it (when was the last time you got past page 3 of a google search?) but the sheer scale of the 376,988,541+ possible hits on almost any given subject means we can’t even kid ourselves we’re being thorough. Barry Schwartz is clear that more choice not only make us less happy but makes for poorer quality decisions.
Which all makes intuitive sense of course. And obscures something far more important. We are so busy exhausting ourselves juggling the deluge of available choices that most of us have forgotten how to create those choices for ourselves in the first place. As Morpheus would have it, we have collectively chosen to take the red pill.
We are stoned on choice. Sedated by it. Bludgeoned by it into an automatic response pattern. Numbed into assuming that our sole job is one of judgement and selection rather than creation.
This has two critical side effects.
Firstly, if we can’t generate meaningful options for ourselves, we hand over any power we have for self-determination to those who can. In gaming design this is called the “Illusion Of Meaningful Choice”, which is what lets you think you’re creating your own storyline whilst actually following a pre-mapped path. Matrix anyone?
Secondly, what if we are only capable of selecting from the options available and none of these available options gets us to where we want to go? How do we chart new territory? Multiple choice does not spark new insights, case study consulting does not breed organisational agility, fast-food menus do not inspire culinary exploration, and pre-digested thinking suffocates all hope of creativity and new possibilities. Innovation will be a thing of the past.
The solution? Don’t assess your options – create them. Use your ingenuity. Take the blue pill. Innovate. And forge a new path.