The Choice Overload

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The Choice Overload


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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When making a decision, what should you do if you have too many choices?

The ‘choice overload’ concept is designed to help individuals improve the way in which they work, to understand themselves better, and to help improve others and understand others better.

How good are you at quitting bad ideas?

According to author Seth Godin, what sets successful people apart from everyone else is their ability to give up.

Winners quit fast, quit often and quit without guilt – until they commit to beating the right dip for the right reasons. You’ll never be number one at anything without picking your shots very carefully.

I wonder how true this is of those working in teaching.

Are teachers good at quitting bad ideas in their day-to-day work?

I suspect in the classroom when trialling ideas, teachers are excellent at discarding bad ideas. The real challenge is how to quit ideas from managers above – ideas we know have little or no impact.

The Dip is a short, entertaining book that helps you do just that. It will forever alter the way you think about success. Having read it, I think this is a useful book for school teachers and leaders to help them use the book as a tool for ‘giving up on bad teaching ideas‘.

Why is it important to limit your options?

We often think that more choice means better choices.

In The Decision Book, it is recommended that we should limit our options. The more choices we take into consideration, the more we believe in our final decision.

This is often the process involved around a school leadership table – let’s brainstorm as many ideas as possible …

The more ideas and choices we have, “the happier we believe we are.

But sometimes the opposite is true: the greater the choice, the higher our expectations.”

Of course, the problem with too many choices is that we may feel we make the wrong choice.

This is called the ‘paradox of choice‘ that Sheena Iyengar, an American business professor demonstrated in a legendary experiment.

Too much choice is bad …

In a supermarket, Iyengar offered a variety of jams for shoppers to try: six different varieties on one day, twenty-four varieties on another. With the smaller selection, 40% tried the jams and 30% bought a jar. The biggest selection attracted 60% of shoppers, but only 2% bought a jar of jam.

The conclusion: the choice is alluring but confusing.

The paradox of choice

How do we solve this paradox of choice in our day-to-day lives at work?

In the classroom, I religiously kept my teaching strategies to a core minimum – and this remains my advice for all schools. Curate whole-school concepts in regular professional development sessions, then agree on key teaching and learning strategies that all teachers can practice to support pupils across a school.

Psychology professor Barry Schwarz simply says, reduce your choice, because the more options you juggle with in your mind, the more dissatisfied you will be.

I can recall countless school policies and interventions that were far too detailed and simply, offered teachers and pupils too much choice. Having more is much more difficult … As I always advocate to the teachers I work with, do less not more, just do it more effectively.

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