Making decision-making easy

  Hort Snacks - June 2017
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 Every single day, people make literally 100’s, if not 1000’s, of choices that affect miniscule parts of their lifestyle. What to wear? What jam to put on toast? What road to take to work? And so on. It can get to be a bit overwhelming.

At the same time, there are many internal choices or decisions that people make, based on principles, values or other factors, that don’t have a huge impact on the world around them, but can be very important to them. Sometimes, in some situations, people have to make choices that go against these factors, or have to pick the “lesser of two evils” which can be a bit maddening.

For those of us that are “decision challenged” (a.k.a. indecisive), making a decision with regards to a purchase or some concrete action can be an agonizing ordeal. We hum and we haw and we eventually, tentatively, make a decision with which we may be happy initially, but may also look back on with regret or with a lack of complete satisfaction. As a result, for those of us in the population that abhor choosing anything or making a decision, we welcome an easy outlet or a directive, to save us the stress of tough decisions.

As providers of a product and/or service, direct farm marketers introduce a number of decisions into the lives of their customers. Often, we want consumers/customers to “decide” to purchase some or more of our product or to “decide” to be environmentally conscious (at least along the line that we follow). We want them to “voluntarily” choose to participate in our activities or to accept our practices or buy into our systems.

While the decisions of others may seem beyond our control, we do, in fact, have a reasonable level of influence on others, provided we are creative in how we present the options.

  1. In some senses, advocacy is a type of influential control. Advocacy brings about change (which is a decision to shift from one course to another) by stopping one action/activity and then presenting or suggesting options to redirect the activity. By presenting possible choices through raising awareness of a number of options, we provide decision outlets for those involved.
  2. Another type of decision control is where we create a sort of trail of logic bread crumbs for people to follow towards a desired conclusion. A speaker I heard a year or so ago referred to this as Paternalistic liberalism, which is where you guide someone correctly to the default decision (i.e. the decision you wanted them to make all along). You “help” people along the path that you want them to take, in such a way as to make it seem like it was the only natural choice. This feels a lot like manipulation (and probably is…).

In many cases, people have a preferred decision (based on values, experience, or whatever) that they will go with, provided it is possible, accessible or simple/easy. This is where we have great influential power. If we make it easy for someone to follow through on a preferred course/decision or make an easy decision (and quite possibly on one that works for us), we all win. The customer comes away feeling like they got what they wanted/needed and you benefit as well.

Let me provide you with an example of how this works. In my community, we wanted people to recycle their cans/bottles in public locations, reducing our landfill load and reducing our environmental impact. Many people are willing to dispose of their cans/bottles in a better way and were looking for places to put their cans/bottles but wouldn’t walk an extra block or more to find a receptacle. In order to encourage behaviour that people already wanted to exhibit, we placed baskets on the side of all garbage cans along the street, giving them an easy alternative to either littering or dumping their cans/bottles in a garbage can. Win win.

The same principle works for things where producers provide little extra helps to their customers. Having staff deliver a fresh picking basket to someone in the field or providing a wagon to carry the fruit can make it easy for customers do what we ultimately want; pick and buy more products. Providing pre-picked baskets of fruit or having processed products at hand to top up a purchase at the till is another example. The availability of electronic payment options also give people a chance to indulge in their impulse buying urges.

Providing these easy avenues for our customers takes a little bit of thought, a little bit of extra effort and perhaps a small investment or cost, but can have big returns in terms of economic, environmental or other goals. It is worth thinking about and making small changes. Make decision-making easy for everyone involved.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on May 29, 2017.