The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More
The logic behind the presumption that if some choice is good, more choice is better seems compelling. But in his groundbreaking work, Barry Schwartz has found evidence that there can be too much of a good thing that a point can be reached at which options paralyze rather than liberate. From consumer products to Medicare prescription drug plans, media choices, travel options and even financial services, Schwartz' research has shown that when confronted with overwhelming choices the vast majority of us will either end up unhappy with the choice we make or choose to not make a choice at all.
The Way We Think about Work is Broken
What makes work satisfying? Apart from a paycheck, there are intangible values that, Barry Schwartz suggests, our current way of thinking about work simply ignores. It's time to stop thinking of workers as cogs on a wheel.
Based on Barry's latest TED Talk and new book, Why We Work, Barry presents an eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace.
We’ve long been taught that the reason we work is primarily for a paycheck. In fact, we’ve shaped much of the infrastructure of our society to accommodate this belief. Then why are so many people dissatisfied with their work, despite healthy compensation? And why do so many people find immense fulfillment and satisfaction through “menial” jobs? Schwartz explores why so many believe that the goal for working should be to earn money, how we arrived to believe that paying workers more leads to better work, and why this has made our society confused, unhappy, and has established a dangerously misguided system.
The international financial crisis of the last two years has vividly illustrated how, when things go wrong, people are quick to reach for two tools to fix them: more and better rules, and smarter incentives. This talk will show that neither rules nor incentives are adequate substitutes for character. To induce people to do the right thing, we need to figure out how to get them to want to do the right thing. Rules and incentives may make things better in the short run. But they make things worse in the long run, by demoralizing activities and demoralizing the people who engage in the activities. The task before us—in finance, in education, in medicine, in law, and in virtually any occupation that involves human interaction—is to find ways to nurture character rather than destroying it.
Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing
When our institutions fail to give us what we need and expect, we reach for two tools to try to fix them. We develop rules and standard operating procedures ("sticks") to force people to do the right thing, and incentives ("carrots") to entice them to do the right thing. Both strategies are evident throughout the educational system as the demand for "accountability" grows ever more insistent. In this talk, I will argue that neither does the job. What we need instead of rules and incentives is character—virtue. We need people who want to do the right thing because it's the right thing. And most especially, we need the virtue that Aristotle called "practical wisdom." Moreover, the more we rely on rules and incentives, the more we drive wise practices and wise people out of education. Our task is to find ways to nurture practical wisdom; instead, we are destroying it.
The Paradox of Choice: Medicare Prescription Drug Plans
The new Medicare prescription drug plan will save senior citizens billions of dollars, so why are so many of them afraid to sign up for it? There is now ample evidence that when you increase choice by offering more and more options, a point is reached at which paralysis rather than “freedom” is the result.
The Paradox of Choice: Public Policy
A central aim of public policy in a democratic society should be improving the welfare of its citizens. Even when resources are plentiful, this is an extremely challenging task, because of the difficulty of determining what “welfare” consists in. Thus, collective welfare requires freedom, freedom entails choice, and choice is enhanced by wealth. The more choice people have, the better. But though the logic of choice may be compelling, there is growing evidence that the psychologic is not. Indeed, there is growing evidence that for many people, increased choice produces decreases in satisfaction-sometimes even misery; that it sometimes produces paralysis, not liberation.
Choice and College
Both Colleges and the students in them are afflicted with choice overload. Colleges torture themselves and millions of high school students trying to select the very best applicants. Students torture themselves trying to select the best colleges. And once they’re in college, and offered almost no guidance about what to study, students are lost in an ocean of course possibilities. Students are less satisfied with their experiences than they should be, and completely uncertain about what their future should be. All of this misery is produced in the name of “freedom” and “excellence.” It is wasteful of time and energy and it can and should be fixed.
Choice and Child Rearing
Have you ever heard anyone say “I only want what’s ‘good enough’ for my child”? In this talk, Schwartz makes the case that “good enough” will produce happier kids and more relaxed parents than the quest for the elusive best.