Choice Architecture

· 480 words · 3 minute read

I value decision-making as a critical skill, and this site repeatedly covers that topic. In this post, I want to dig deeper into what a good decision is. First, how can we define a good choice? Unsatisfingly, I don’t think we can proceed much because there’s no global truth about a good choice. For example, a high salary can be valuable for some people, but others may consider a less worldly life more desirable. For 80-year-old investors, reliability is critical, but for a 20-year-old, expected gains can be more meaningful. Thus, for a good choice, we need standards to evaluate. For individuals, the standard can be personal values, and for corporations, it can be visions.

Even with the same standard, different contexts (environments and assets) may define desirable choices differently. For example, even though Facebook’s founder and Kakao’s founder had a similar vision to connect people, their contexts were very different, requiring very different fine choices to thrive. For Zuckerberg, born in an affluent family, it was a great decision to drop out of college and start the business immediately at 19 with strong momentum. On the other hand, it was wise of Kim to graduate college first and work for years in a large company to accumulate experience and assets. At 19, Kim had no coding education, no financial backing or VCs, and only had a mandatory civil duty to fulfill for 2-3 years, so it probably wouldn’t have folded nicely if he had started a business then. Moreover, I think good choices continuously change. As described, values and contexts define a good decision, and as decisions affect values and contexts back, the following good decisions can gradually change.


Summing up, decision-making is the continuous process of values and contexts making one conclusion, and each result feeding back to values and contexts. Thus, rather than a one-time event, I think decision-making spans throughout a whole life. Good decisions grow your values, improve your environment, and accumulate assets (not necessarily financial ones, but whatever holds value.) I acknowledge this conclusion is still vague, but probably that’s the beauty of life. There have been many grand answers from wise figures for thousands of years, but we still don’t accept one of them as an absolute one. Despite the ambiguity, I think the diagram above provides a reasonable structure for thinking about subcomponents and their relationships.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle supposed that the world is composed of only earth, air, fire, and water. More than two thousand years later, humanity knows about the world in much more detail. We understand that there are many more subcomponents and how they relate to each other. With this power, we could enjoy more prosperous lives with healthier bodies, even though we still have a long way to go. Similarly, I think understanding subcomponents of good decision-making can help us to make better choices. ∎