The Tyranny of Choice

There’s a lot of good TV out there at the moment. There are a lot of good movies out there too. And a lot of stuff on streaming. And music. So much music. Plus I like to have a read and keep up with the news. And that’s before you worry about actually doing some work during the day, keeping up with chores and general “Life Maintenance”. How do you choose what to do, what to watch, who to meet, how to get on with your life? Choice should be a democracy, free will and all that, but in truth it’s a tyranny. You have to choose. Think of your life like a hung parliament. Even a lack of a decision is a decision in itself.

And choices are the worst right © Katherine Barrett? No-one wants to make a choice that might be wrong. If there are a group of you making a choice, it’s basically death by options, kind of the opposite of the fall of the Roman Empire. How many times have you walked around a strange city looking for a place to eat? “Nah I don’t fancy pizza”, “No-one in there, must be crap”, “Too busy” and so on, until you end up in a crappy pasta place that you turned down an hour ago. Think of the stag do whose options are limited to start, but then after making a decision, get turned down at the door. Choices suck.

So what can you do? In the latter case, you throw everything at the door of the best man, then grumble about his choices to everyone that will listen at the ensuing big day. Ensure you know who his partner is first though. Been there done that, awkward.

I guess the simple product management answer is, evidence, evidence, evidence. Gather as much information as you can about the various options, then come to a decision that ticks as many boxes as it can. Whoever your stakeholder is — be they Head of Finance, fellow cinema-goer, spouse or fellow stag — clear, concise explanation of the decision always helps. Give them no room to manoeuvre out of the decision that’s been made, unless they can positively counter your hard facts.

Finally, embrace your decision. Don’t mourn what you’re missing. Remember that as a product manager you’re in charge. Status and seniority can artificially increase the perception of the quality of ideas. Challenge and counter, but be prepared to give in and compromise for future gains.

And if I’m going to practice what I preach, if I want to see Royal Blood, I guess I’ll be going to see Major Lazer on Friday :(