A new study published in the upcoming issue of Psychological Science (and reviewed in Science Daily) looks at the issue of choices. We all make them, every day. We are aware of some choices, and not others: for example, the choice of clothes to wear and the choice of food to eat, the choice of how we get to work and which route we take, etc. The study demonstrates that we often don’t appreciate the power of choice that we have. For example, we don’t consider that when we walk, we are making a choice to lift our leg and put it down. However, when we do know and appreciate that we are making a choice, we feel we have control. The feeling of control, in turn, activates parts of the brain responsible for rewards. In other words, the feeling of control we have when we get to decide feels pleasurable and is something we like. Consider the negatives you often feel when there is no choice readily available to you–that you must take the “not-nice” road.
This can be important both for team management and for new recruits. Often, it seems to me when we come into an organization we are presented with a series of policies over which we have no control and no choice. If instead, as often as can be, we present people with choices–yes, you can use Linux. We don’t have the capacity to give you technical support, but we can point you to people who do–people will feel more positive, more optimistic. If we can frame choices with the benefits and penalties involved, then it’s possible people will more likely choose the organizational default–but feel better, because they got to choose.
(Yes, I know there’s the whole thing of God’s sovereignty, submission, etc. But just remember: missionaries are, in the end, volunteers. They get recruited, they have to raise their own support, they are often on their own for long periods of time, and they burn out quickly. I propose that considering this principle might be useful in the long run in terms of member health.)