I found this phrase in the Nudge book I’m reading. I like it. The phrase “choice architect”, I mean. The book is just OK but maybe I’ve just read too many similar books and the repetition of ideas is getting tedious. Back to the topic. Choice architecture has to do with designing an environment to influence outcomes, or purposely nudging for the betterment of yourself and/or others. Here’s how the authors describe nudging and choice architecture (from the Amazon site):
Thaler and Sunstein: By a nudge we mean anything that influences our choices. A school cafeteria might try to nudge kids toward good diets by putting the healthiest foods at front. We think that it’s time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better.
Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where’s the chocolate cake? Where’s the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects. The architecture includes rules deciding what happens if you do nothing; what’s said and what isn’t said; what you see and what you don’t. Doctors, employers, credit card companies, banks, and even parents are choice architects.
Say I want to be my own choice architect and influence my decision making towards desirable long term outcomes? (I do.) This leads me to consider what the word control means to me. If you look at the DISC profile portion of my Human Patterns output, you’ll see that I’m about controlling my environment so much that it’s an issue I encounter daily-hourly-almost constantly.
It’s common for people to interpret high-control as someone who goes around trying to control others. Sure, it can mean that, but not necessarily. For me, it’s about managing the parts of my environment that I can influence and wasting as little energy as possible on those I can’t. It’s about being my own choice architect.
One recent change to my environment was to move my laptop from the coffee table in the living room to the office. I spend more of my computer time being productive and I get the laptop away from little baby hands and eyes. On the spot where my computer used to sit, a book now lies open for reading when I’m pumping, feeding Remy or something else that doesn’t require full attention. As a result, I get more reading done and my son now grabs at every book he sees in order to hold, feel, turn pages (sort of, he’s just 5 months) and, of course, taste just like Mommy and Daddy do (except for the tasting part, we don’t do that). That’s because he’s a big boy and if Mommy looks at that book thing so much then it must be worth investigating. Other than the minor issue of keeping baby saliva off of the library books, I think this is a good trend. Books are cool. So are laptops, which still fascinate him.
That’s one example, but there are endless ways to engage in self-nudging. What ways are you engaging in personal choice architecture? What more could you do to encourage the types of decisions that don’t elicit later regret?