by: Grant Gooding
Imagine you find yourself in the middle of a forest. You look in all directions but see nothing but dense trees and plants. What are the first emotions that overcome you? For most, it is fear, anxiety and panic. You might assume that these natural emotions are based on ‘feeling lost,’ but, you would be wrong.
The psychological reason you experience fear and anxiety by feeling ‘lost’ is actually because you have too many options. Psychologists call this “the paradox of choice” (there is a book on the topic of the same name by psychologist Barry Schwartz if you are interested) and not only does it devastate your mental health, it can quickly cripple your company by paralyzing your decision making and deteriorating your culture by lowering mental health and decreasing the confidence your employees have in your leadership.
The Abundance of Choice Paradox
Oftentimes, we might think that having many options is an asset for our organization. Not having options is, in itself, a fear of most leaders. However, as Sheena Iyengar’s famous jam choice study taught us (where fewer jam options given to consumers led to higher purchase probabilities and more options demotivated consumers from making a decision) the fewer options we have the quicker and more likely we are to select an option.
The Psychological Impact of an Abundance of Choices
When business leaders are faced with an abundance of choices in their job it leads to increased stress, lower mental health, and is linked to clinical depression. Since organizations are products of their leadership, unhealthy leaders lead unhealthy organizations.
Leaders impact their employees, and employees who are highly engaged and motivated tend to set their own goals for success in their jobs which increases accountability and overall job satisfaction. According to a 2018 Gallup report, engaged and motivated employees boost profitability by 21% and are 87% less likely to leave.
By just clearly communicating the direction of your organization and laying out a path to get there, you create positive, systemic side effects on your employee’s mental health, engagement, and productivity.
How Market Research Can Save You From Abundance of Choice
Many people think that the goal of market research is to find the correct answer. However, most of the time we use market research to eliminate the wrong answers and show leaders the correct paths so they can make simple, correct choices that align with their organization’s culture and vision.
According to the Journal of Consumer Psychology, a reduction in options for a decision-maker lowers stress levels and helps create a more focused and confident approach to strategic business decisions.
For many organizations and business leaders that understand its value, market research serves as a compass to help them escape the forest providing a clear direction and keeping their personal and organizational mental health strong.