Choice. Too Much A Negative Thing? (A Book Review).

I’m a self described life long learner. It’s simply that I’m just too curious to not always be learning.

Since November, inspired by thoughts that stemmed from these posts, I’ve been interested in choice, and, more specifically, how it relates to product design and development.

Reading Nate’s experiences with jean shopping reminded me of a book I read in December that’s worth a read if you’re into product design and development.

Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choiceis an excellent book highlighting the issues and concerns, from a pyschological stand-point, that too much choice creates in our lives.

The book starts with a funny anecdotal story of Schwartz’s recent experience purchasing jeans. The last time he purchased jeans there was a single cut, a single colour and the single decision was to find the right size. This time, Scwartz was bombarded with options (multiple cuts, different colours, different zippers, …) and found that the experience was less pleasant than before.

Schwartz explores how the common belief that more options makes us happier may not only be false, but may actually erode our psychological well-being, introducing previously unpresent stress and anxiety.

What does this have to do with product design and development? Lots.

For example, look at the discussion occurring regarding the iPhone and the pros/cons of having a closed/locked system vs. an open/adaptable platform.

Obviously, people are fairly passionate about choice as it relates to product development.

Being an easy and light read I found The Paradox of Choiceworth the effort required to digest it. I found it interesting and enjoyed it enough to give it to my Dad and brother for Christmas, which speaks to the quality of the content. If you’re interested in choice as it relates to product design I highly recommend that you check out the book.

  • nate archer

    Thanks for the shout out fraser! I got the book for X-mas and have yet to start it. I may have to now.

  • http://trackingimagination.wordpress.com nate archer

    Thanks for the shout out fraser! I got the book for X-mas and have yet to start it. I may have to now.

  • Leigh

    Interestingly enough, while customers complain about too much choice, they equally complain about not getting exactly what they want when they want it. As my friend Peter likes to say, the empowered digital consumer is a schizophrenic kid in a self-serve candy store (his description gets even better after that but too long to post here). It’s definately hard to find the right balance. If your not careful, you quickly become ‘unfocused’ rather than “customer focused”.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com Leigh

    Interestingly enough, while customers complain about too much choice, they equally complain about not getting exactly what they want when they want it. As my friend Peter likes to say, the empowered digital consumer is a schizophrenic kid in a self-serve candy store (his description gets even better after that but too long to post here). It’s definately hard to find the right balance. If your not careful, you quickly become ‘unfocused’ rather than “customer focused”.

  • Fraser

    It’s definitely a difficult balance to obtain. It’s even more difficult when you consider that the early-adopters of the technology may require (/desire) a different degree of freedom than the majority.

  • http://www.disruptivethoughts.com Fraser

    It’s definitely a difficult balance to obtain. It’s even more difficult when you consider that the early-adopters of the technology may require (/desire) a different degree of freedom than the majority.