Do you want to wear
your pink pyjamas or your blue pyjamas?
This diversionary tactic might not work on today’s savvy preschoolers, but it worked on my cohort, I think. It also sorta sums up the parenting wisdom from my extended family, even if I didn’t execute it perfectly:
- Give kids a choice whenever you can – it’s respectful and it builds personal agency (and no, no one knew it by that name back in the day)
- Don’t pretend to give them a choice when there really isn’t one – it’s a recipe for someone (maybe both of you) to end up unhappy. (It can even be manipulative, when the next step is trying to persuade the kid that your choice is really what they want.)
Going to bed now? Not negotiable. What you wear? Entirely up to you, kiddo.
So I took note of Seth’s recent blog, which talks about A/B testing in market research; that is, offering two options with no meaningful difference:
- Blue boxes or green ones?
- $195 or $205?
This approach doesn’t offer the respondent (or the tester) a chance to think outside the box, blue or green. That’s sorta its point: it implicitly validates the current product/service offering, with only some fiddling on the margins. It’s the business or market-research equivalent of the parental question to the preschooler:
Pink pyjamas, or blue?
To find insights and even surprises, Seth recommends A/J testing; that is, offering radically different options. What about a movie 30 minutes long? Or 5 hours?
This got me to wondering about how often I accept the product/service basically as is, and carefully choose between basically irrelevant options. I pause between a small or a large plastic clam-shell for produce, when what I want is a biodegradable container or none at all. I accept the either/or dichotomy of fast food or tasty food, without asking why I can’t have both. I hover my pencil over the ballot, looking for a name and a party that will, truly, do politics differently.
And it got me to wondering about how often I manage my life with A/B testing, making choices only on the margins. Pork or salmon for dinner? Laundry or floor-washing? Tea with friends or time spent emailing friends? Phoenix or Myrtle Beach for the winter?
I know all about choosing between pink and blue pyjamas: Heck, I’ve been doing it since I was a preschooler. What radically different options might I consider for the structure of my life?
What if the going-to-bed-now part is, in fact, negotiable after all?