Burden of Knowledge

You said people were sort of frightened. Do you think 23andMe is scaring people to sell their product?

No. But I do think it relates to what psychologists call the burden of choice. If a doctor tells you that you have to make a decision about what to do about a very sick child, that choice becomes a burden in itself regardless of the results. You wake up every day wondering if you did the right thing. If the doctor says “here’s what I think you should do,” the doctor takes on the burden. In the 23andMe case, I think there’s similar thing happening but it’s a burden of knowledge. If you know even possible future illnesses based on genetics, are you already paying a price just by having that knowledge?

Dan Ariely on 23andMe. I agree with his general sentiment that it's hard to know what to do with the information the service shows you. The site provides no guidance on what to do to try to combat, say, a slightly elevated risk for colon cancer.

Branching off of this topic, the phrase “burden of knowledge” struck a chord for me. As a leader, one of your jobs is to make decisions for your team to take the burden of knowledge off of their shoulders, and one way to know when you're ready to move on up is when you feel the itch to be the one who takes on that burden when it comes to key decisions. The desire to be calling the shots isn't sufficient, but it is a requirement.