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12 Jan 2015

Problems with Freedom of Choice

Problems with freedom of choice are easily seen in our music choices.

The problems with freedom of choice create bubbles around us that protect us from what requires work and thought.

Leaders rely on advice. Much of it comes from employees. It is common fare today to tell leaders to set direction, delegate, empower and get out of the way. All of this gives much freedom to employees to choose what advice they will give. There are problems with the freedom of choice though.

Our technologically dynamic market demands change. Change means adapting. Advice must suit that. It is vital then that leaders know the forces influencing what advice employees choose to give. A swarm of such forces relate to problems with freedom of choice. A directed leadership approach could be better.

These are few areas that quantify better the problems with freedom of choice than music does. Much is related to the fact that people do not want to think. It is work. It is hard. Given the choice of two paths, one thoughtful and one thoughtless, people will tend to choose the latter when free to choose.

Derek Thompson writes in “The Shazam Effect” (The Atlantic, December 2014 issue) that music listeners will tend to:

  • Avoid new music
  • Spend 90% of their time listening to songs they have already heard
  • Seek out new music that is popular
  • Like new music once they have heard it three or four times

This is called fluency. When music fits what we expect, it fills us with comfort, confidence, certainty and celebration. The vital point to leaders: the same holds true for information and ideas. The problems with freedom of choice are that they restrict options. It is ironic but true. We create and stay in our freedom bubbles. Thus, when listening to employees’ advice, leaders will do well to remember that employees will tend to:

  • Avoid new ideas
  • Spend most of their time researching and developing ideas they have already heard
  • Seek out ideas that everyone else is using including competitors
  • Explore new ideas if leaders relentlessly encourage them to do so

Leaders also need to realize that these problems with freedom of choice are normal. Our brains process the familiar more easily. It is easier to ponder and package well-used ideas as new. They do not require thought. They are the junk food to a diet of change and adaptability.

What are your people feeding you?

 

Here’s a short video about the cited article. It gives some funny and good statistics about the music we choose:

Why Pop Music is so Repetitive

2 Responses

  1. Quoting: “Much is related to the fact that people do not want to think. It is work. It is hard. Given the choice of two paths, one thoughtful and one thoughtless, people will tend to choose the latter when free to choose.” And thus emerges the main objective of a successful leader: THE LEADER MUST LEAD IN SUCH A WAY THAT EMPLOYEES ARE COMFORTABLE TAKING RISKS AND PROVIDING THE LEADER WITH LEADING EDGE OPTIONS!!!

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