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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inclusion a better option than choice?

Often in life, when we are sailing comfortably along one path, we bump into a starkly different yet attractive option. An alternative that in itself is attractive and makes sense, but just does not fit comfortably into your existing scheme of things. Examples?

  • You  are a youngster with supportive, loving, sensible family, who is helplessly charmed by someone whose background and views just don't gel with your family's. 
  • You are comfortably handling a successful business, and you encounter an opportunity that irrationally but strongly appeals to your gut, but all your supporters advise against it
What is the right thing to do when you encounter two paths in front of you, one of continuing what you have been doing comfortably, and one of switching to a wild and attractive new option?

There is a whole area of Decision Sciences that deals with making the right choice. Choices can be quantitatively weighted, scored, prioritized, optimized and selected in scientific ways. However, I recently began to wonder if this whole business of choice makes sense at all.

I encountered many forks in my own life. Looking back, the best decisions I took involved embracing both sides of the fork rather than choosing any one side. Including the new option into my existing life, so as not to destroy/lose what  is already there, but expand horizons to embrace the new, has always resulted in growth for all concerned, enriched perception, and made new opportunities available.

Making and sticking to a choice is far easier than inclusion. Hence it is the short-cut that people tend to prefer - just come to some conclusion quickly and simplify life. Hindu versus Muslim, urban versus rural, moral principles versus convenience, profit versus social service, parents versus friends, etc. However it seems to me that each choice we make is like a little wall we build between ourselves and the real, beautiful world out there. Choice breeds exclusion.

Inclusion is not easy to practice. Including some new thing as part of your current life is like becoming pregnant. Many existing parts of you will be forced to yield, many preferences get compromised, many allowances get made, many acclimatizations happen. But once the painful gestation is over, the end result is well-worth it. Your world definitely becomes richer.

In my personal & business life, I was fortunate to have encountered many situations where I was forced to choose between strong options. I feel grateful and gratified that something in me selected both options instead of only one. As an easy-to-understand example, my choice of a life partner was strongly objected to by my wonderful parents. I often felt cornered and forced to make a choice, but something within me adamantly stuck to "no I want both my parents AND my fiancĂ©e; all should be happy". It took time for a solution to naturally evolve, but when it did, the conclusion was more beautiful than any single choice could have been. There were many similar situations and learnings in the context of my business.

It will be wonderful if some Decision Sciences researcher takes up a scientific study of inclusion as a decision-making strategy, and evaluate its merits compared to choice.


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