The Paradox of Choice

Choice is something I’ve been interested in for a long time, probably starting from when I worked in Dixons and began observing the way people make decisions. More importantly in that case was what was stopping them doing so.

The thing that made me start thinking about it seriously was noticing how shoppers in Tesco’s look in pain while choosing toilet paper. I found it funny, but also a little worrying (especially when I found myself doing the same thing). The conclusion; choice is not always a good thing.

Therefore, I think there is a lot of value to be created by not giving people choice. In this case the value is in using our expertise and effort to make a whole host of decisions for customers so they don’t have to.

Giving options often seems like a good idea, but I think is often just the easy way out, passing on the responsibility of descision making. In engineering, “user configurable” options are common, but I think sometimes too common and over-rated. Sometimes there is huge benefit to be had by encouraging commonality, convention and defaults.

My resulting rule: “We know best until you know best”.

Barry Schwartz did a great talk which captures loads of the things I was thinking about (and more), but with a clarity I’d only hope for. Watch it here: The paradox of choice – Why more is less.

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