Paradox of choice

He [Barry Schwartz] suggests that because we are presented with so much information, the overload of options and data leads us to falsely believe that, even a fairly mundane task like shopping for toothpaste, has greater significance than it really does.”
Howstuffworks.com.

Why do 5-10yo kids know what profession they want to do but by the end of high school 10 years later, most do not? I know I didn’t, which is why I chose the courses that seemed to keep the most options open.

Is it a case of having an awareness of so many more options and therefore the choice becomes so much more difficult? The Paradox of Choice suggests that it is.

I believe the same is true in OSS.

In the mid 2000’s, two of the leading OSS providers had product lists on their websites that ran into hundreds and hundreds of items, all the way down to the many different network adaptors / probes. They were actually discounted from a vendor selection by one of my customers because there was too much choice and nobody interested in trying to narrow down the choices. Thankfully, they’ve made their parts lists a little less cluttered now, making customer choice far easier.

What about your quotes, proposals, discussion papers, analyses, etc? Do you present so many options it needs guidance to choose? Are you giving colleagues or customers too many choices to decide?

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One thought on “Paradox of choice

  1. I vaguely remember a quote from the IBM heydays: When you opened an IBM computer, you saw the IBM organization chart. I believe this is the case with many complex products from large corporations: they reflect corporate complexity. Unless Dilbert is right about confusopolies 🙂

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