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Decision Paralysis – The Power of One Thing

Posted by Douglas Wick on Wed, Mar 9, 2011

Suppose you or one of your parents suffers from chronic hip pain caused by arthritis.  Drugs to treat the pain no longer provide relief.  The option becomes hip replacement surgery, invasive surgery that requires slicing open the thigh, wrenching the bone out of the socket, sawing off the arthritic end and replacing it with an implant.  In addition recovery from this surgery is long and painful. 

The doctor gives you the news and tells you he/she will search for additional medications but it appears this is your only option.  To the doctors surprise he/she discovers a medication that had not been tried previously.  What should the doctor do?  Prescribe the untried medication despite other medications not working or should they go ahead with the surgery?

This is an actual case used to study doctors’ decisions.  When doctors were provided this case history 47 percent chose to try medication to save the patient from having surgery. 

Now suppose instead of one medication, your doctor found two that might relieve the pain and avoid surgery.  Wouldn’t you think that more doctors in this scenario would choose to try the medications first rather than have the patient have surgery?  Given exactly the same set of facts the doctors in this group actually chose to try the medication less.  Only 28% chose to try either one.

Does this make sense?  Why given one choice would 47% chose medication, and when given two medications that could possibly avoid surgery did doctors chose to try this approach less [28%]? 

It’s called Decision Paralysis.  Decision [analysis paralysis] resized 600More options, even when they are good ones can freeze us and make us chose a default plan.  Providing more choices for your customers and your employees is not necessarily a good thing.  It’s why Positioning Systems feels it is so important for your business to choose ONE THING a quarter or year to concentrate on.  In every case where our clients give their employees the ONE THING focus they achieve more than they had previously. 

The story provided is from the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.  It’s from their chapter Script the Critical Moves.  There are lots more examples and once again I highly recommend reading this book if you feel you need to change anything in your business.

Ask yourself whether or not you are giving your customers too many choices?  Are you giving your employees too many choices?  As pointed out in one of my newsletters, “People Lazy or Exhausted?” what we presume is our employees being lazy is often caused by too many choices and too much change exhausting their capacity. 

If you need help choosing your One Thing consider joining us for the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decisions Workshop in Cedar Rapids on April 19th.  We’ll help you make sense of what should be your ONE THING and give you tools to help you execute 2011 into one of your best years ever.

Topics: Decision Paralysis, One Thing, Switch, Four Decisions

 

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems

 

The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on small to midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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