Professor Sheena Iyengar is the Inaugural S.T. Lee Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and is considered one of the world's experts on choice. Sheena is the author of The Art of Choosing and presented an outstanding keynote with this title on the evening of Day 1 of the Summit 2010.
Sheena began the session by explaining how choice is the powerful tool we use to express ourselves. Our choices allow us the opportunity to assert our individuality and to distinguish ourselves from others around us. They allow us to go from who we are today to who we want to be tomorrow, and are the most powerful instrument we have to shape our futures.
We associate choice with freedom and we have come to believe that choosing is the practice of freedom. We believe that we are experts in knowing what we want, and as long as we choose what we want we will be happy. That the more choices we have the more opportunities we have to find what we want and be happy.
But how true are these beliefs? Do we really know what we want? And if we do, are we more likely to find it if we have a larger set rather than a smaller set of options?Click here to listen to an interview with Sheena about her session
In a world where we are offered a smorgasbord of choices in every aspect of our lives, a new problem emerges as we experience the ‘obligation to choose’. Are we really helped when we have all this choice at our disposal and is the ‘more choice the better’ model really working? 15 years of research indicates not, and that in fact there are harmful consequences of too much choice.
Sheena encourages us to begin to evaluate the meaning and importance of our everyday choices. To ask ourselves “How free am I if I am bound by the need to choose? How much choice do I really need? Which choices are worth making and which are merely distracting me from my larger goals?”
It may be that in some instances choosing not to choose may be the best thing we can do for ourselves.
For more on Sheena's work visit www.columbia.edu
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