Executive Functioning Skills

Posted  | 0 Comment(s)  |  by Kris Girrell

Our culture, it seems to me, is suffering under a grand illusion that we have a choice we can make, and that in making that choice, we have somehow exerted our individual executive power. This illusion is both confirmed and perpetuated by the ever-increasing plethora of alternatives from which to choose. We believe that having a greater selection gives us greater range and thus more freedom in choice, and that having those, we will increase our overall satisfaction.

Both, in fact, are not only wrong but the complete opposite of what actually occurs. In Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice, he gives countless examples of how consumers presented with a greater array of choices not only sampled, viewed, tried fewer but were far less likely to purchase than those with a limited selection. Dan Gilbert at Harvard, in researching choice satisfaction found that having greater freedom of choice decreased the satisfaction of the final selection, and that the irreversibility of the selection actually increased both short-term and long-term satisfaction with the selection. Yet both Gilbert and Schwartz report that the overwhelming majority of people still prefer having a wider range of choice. We actually think we want that which ultimately leads to our dissatisfaction!

There are piranha in the river

DockThe ubiquitous and unending varieties so saturate our society that children are having increasing difficulty with what psychologists call “executive functioning” – decision-making. They (and I contend we adults, coaches and execs are in the same pickle) don’t know what they want, and they have difficulty filtering through the morass of alternatives. The Internet has made all information (we believe) available so we bury ourselves in more information – everything is important, everything must be taken into account and considered, everyone’s opinion counts.

I think not. Powerful decision-making is laser-like. People given a high range of alternatives revert to their most common and habituated choices. And faced with overwhelming alternatives we tend to rely on the opinion of a trusted friend over all the information and research. Executives still need to learn “executive functioning” skills. We need to be able to discern foreground from background, wheat from chaff, and the critical few from the noise of the masses. But doing so will mean breaking the addiction to illusion that more is better, and addictions are not easily put down. It is a drug and it is crippling our leaders and executives.

Kris Girrell
Career Partners International

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