Our Attachment to Closing Doors

13 August 2008 at 1:01 pm 1 comment

One of my favorite new business books so far this year is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. It addresses all kinds of issues from the motivating power of pain, pleasure and just plain placebos, explanations for why the honor code in the workplace (leaving a dollar in the conference room for your coffee and doughnut) really does work, and more.

But the most interesting examples for me where those where Ariely explores the all too human penchant for keeping as many options as possible open, even when the choice to do so is clearly, obviously, detrimental. Ariely even created a game (try it out for yourself here) where you have the choice to keep options (doors) open or not, all while trying to achieve the highest score. Even knowing what you’re “supposed” to do to win, most people will find themselves clicking to keep as many possible doors open, rather than optimizing their score. Why?

“Closing a door on an options is experienced as a loss,” Dr. Ariely explains. “And people are will to pay a price, sometime a significant price, in order to avoid to emotion of loss.” In the game of course, the trade-off is a lower score for more open doors, but in life sometime the trade-offs aren’t as obvious: wasted time, missed opportunities, lowered creativity, etc. All because we’re afraid to firmly shut the door an option, a project, a colleague, etc.

And flip this to the client side…how much information is too much for clients? Whether they gather it on their own, or we supply it them, the more options they’re presented with, the harder time they have coming to decision. And from Dr. Ariely’s research, this is an ingrained human habit. So don’t get too upset with your clients for dithering…instead think of ways to simplify and clarify the decision-making process for them. Plus keep in mind that they might be willing to pay in order to keep options open! 

As for the “option habit” in our own businesses, I’ve been making a conscious effort to truly weigh what keeping certain opportunities “live” costs me, and I’ve found I’m more willing to cut the cord on them than I was before reading this book. But make no mistake, it is an effort, and it often does cause little mental twinges and spasms of doubt and regret…but I also feel less cluttered mentally and emotionally than I have for a while.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!

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Entry filed under: Client Relations, Experience Enhancement, Innovation. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Linda H. Bassert  |  28 November 2008 at 10:44 am

    I like the term solopreneur you used in another post. This reflection hits an area I’ve been thinking about lately: what is it costing me to do so many different things for different clients? I have a specialty in window treatment design and residential interior decorating, success in color consultation, have also been doing work in interior redesign, space planning and moving in servicesw for a client who downsized into a residential community. I’ve been in business for myself 2 1/2 years – and each new project, if it is in a different area of design, needs slightly different samples or equipment. For redesign, it’s extra extension cords, plate hangers and plate stands, picture hooks, and accent lighting. Now a new client who is also a realtor wants to talk to me about staging. I could do it, and in this market, it could expose me to new homeowners who need my other services. But what new supplies and equipment am I going to need to purchase now?
    Even my successful venturing into public speaking and trade shows has required new types of display tools and projection equipment (rented right now)…
    I suppose this is a part and parcel of growing any business, but I wonder – if I specialized more, would my expenses be less, and my move into profitability accelerated? I may just have to go purchase this book you reference.


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August 2008

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