The Power of Choice
We are all choice makers. Every day we make many choices, yet we may not realize the importance and power of being able to make these choices. We are driven to choose. This drive may have been developed as an aid to survival. Being unable to choose is unpleasant and creates stress. Even animals in zoos are frustrated and stressed by their lack of control.
Americans are the ultimate choice makers. We like to be able to make choices in almost every area of our lives. We live in an “I” based culture. We choose based on what is best for the individual. Other cultures are “we” based, such as Japan and other Asian cultures. These cultures make choices based on what is best for the group or the family.
Choice gives life meaning. Choice is the only way we have of getting us from where we are not to the places we want to be in the future.
Why are we writing about choices in a Smart Work Ethics blog? Smart Work Ethics is built on the philosophy that helping our students learn to make better choices creates better people and better employees. Choice is the foundation of personal responsibility. One of the key points of Smart Work Ethics is that making choices is a skill and this is a skill that can be learned. Making good choices is an example of behavioral learning.
We recently read The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. In her book Iyengar described a number of studies and one really spoke to us. Third graders were divided into three groups. The researchers gave them a test to measure math knowledge. Then the three groups used a game, Space Quest, designed to enhance their math skills. In one group each student got to choose the name of his or her space ship. In one group they were assigned a name based on the most popular name in their class. In the third group they were assigned a name based on what third graders in another school picked. The name of the space ship was the only difference in the three groups. After playing the game the three groups were tested again to determine if there was any change in their math skills.
The results may surprise you. Remember the game was exactly the same for all three groups. The students who were able to choose the name of their space ship showed improvement. Their scores jumped 18%, almost two letter grades. The students who were assigned a space ship name showed no improvement.
We were excited to read about this study. We always knew that our Button Exercise, which allows the class members to create a class slogan, was a powerful motivator and a bonding experience for the class. The Button Exercise may even improve learning and retention. We know that our participants are excited about receiving their button. One of our trainers recently shared a story with us. One of her students was so excited about his button that he got a special hat just for his button.
In Smart Wok Ethics classes our students learn the power of choice. They learn that work ethics is a choice and that the choices they make can lead to the futures they want: paychecks, raises and promotions. Everyday work ethics is a choice. Making good choices leads to personal responsibility.
The power choice goes right along with our philosophy that “telling is not training.” By engaging the power of choice we help our students learn life long skills. We don’t cover every single work ethics issue and we don’t need to when we teach our students 1) that they have the power to make good choices and 2) they learn the skills to make those choices. In each class we emphasize the power of choice and how to use it.
If you have enjoyed learning more about choices, we recommend that you check out Sheena Iyengar’s book The Art of Choosing. If you are pressed for time Sheena has some short videos on YouTube.