The Fear of Choice

Agile, flexible, adaptive and dynamic are all words we use to encourage people and organizations to be more responsive to the turbulence in our business and economic environment. We then deride those who we view as resistant to change. But maybe what holds us back is as much “fear of choice” as it is “fear of change.” In “Linchpin,” author Seth Godin says that entrepreneurs and leaders who create tons of value for their companies often perform the same tasks as the rest of us, except for a critical 5 minutes per day. And in that 5 minutes they are somehow able to cut through the thousands of possible choices and select the one that creates value. For others, this cornucopia of choice is paralyzing. It’s the fear of choice that holds them back.

And, all the 4×4 matrix models in the world (and there are many) won’t make the key decisions for you. Models assist, but ultimately individuals and core teams cut through the profusion of choices—go left or go right, go north or go south, build product A or build product B. In Lewis and Clark’s famous trek across the mountains and plains to find the Pacific, there was a particular key juncture. Nearly everyone besides the leaders thought the right fork was the Missouri, but the leaders chose the left—the correct one. Maybe we don’t need more books on change management; maybe what we need is a few good ones on choice management.