Choices: choose to read The Art of Choosing

I spend most of my professional life facilitating decision-making in all kinds of libraries & organizations. I’m fascinated with how people make choices, how they decide, what influences these decisions – and what doesn’t.

I haven’t finished the book yet, so there will be more postings on this, but The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar is a fascinating study of how people – and publics – make choices. Why do I care about this? And why should all those in the library & information world care about this? Because every day, every minute, decisions are being made about your services, your libraries & their place in the community, the university, the organization. Look at the choices being made right now for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries or New Jersey Public Libraries or the Community Access Program in Canada?

Some initial highlights:

– in North America, the more choices people have the less likely they are to choose one; many very successful companies (like P&G) have scaled back the # of products they offer — and the result is higher sales, higher revenues, higher profits.  Iyengar’s work in this area started with her famous study of the “Jam selection” — when people were offered samples of 24 jams, few ppl choice to purchase 1.  But when they were offered samples of 6 jams, they were 6 TIMES more likely to purchase 1.  I identify with this; I hate huge malls with lots of stores. I’m MUCH more likely to purchase items in small towns from a few stores — just ask VISA. I’m overwhelmed at the Eaton’s Centre or other big malls. Yuck. Too much.  The “apex” of choice is 7…….so how many services does your library offer? Or how are these services bundled for people to choose from?

– in North America, which tends to have a culture of individualism, we regard ‘choice’ as our right; but those from other cultures, like China or India, this is not the case….. hm……what are the implications for libraries whose constituencies are new to North America?

Why did I choose to read this book? Because I love to understand how people perceive options & choose among them…..but….that’s just my choice.

2 thoughts on “Choices: choose to read The Art of Choosing

  1. Vince Poscente

    Rebecca… this was very interesting. I wonder if Iyengar dives into how people make life choices too? From my experience in ‘what makes people tick’ getting them to make choices is also contingent on how they’ve made choices in the past. To take a guided tour of what choices people will take moving forward – 1st take a look at defining moments. This reveals how someone chooses (through fear, ambition, curiosity, passion or avoidance all together). 2nd list all the choices and one will see a pattern of choice behavior. 3rd – one can predict what choices will likely show up moving forward. For self reflection purposes… if one has done step one and two then ‘choosing’ the healthy choice (pattern or not) is more of a conscious thing than a reflexive pattern. Anyway, thanks for the post. Very interesting. Vince Poscente (Canadian Speaker Hall of Fame and NY Times Bestselling Author of The Age of Speed)

    1. Rebecca Jones Post author

      Thanks Vince. And thanks for the detailing of the tour of choices. The problem for most is the difficulty in seeing our journey.

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