Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The Paradox of Choice!

I was TEDing around today when I came across this awesome talk by Barry Schwartz, who's also written a book on the topic.

More Choice = More Happiness?
The notion that Freedom + Choice = Happiness + Welfare... is widely accepted as common sense. Also, we assume that More Freedom + More Choice = More Happiness + More Welfare...
And this is exactly what Barry contradicts!

Choices make people feel miserable?
Barry says that too much choice leads to "Analysis Paralysis", and decreased satisfaction!
We set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them, and blame our failures entirely on ourselves.

I was thinking about situations in my life... and Barry is right on!

What blog platform should I use?
I was paralysed for months, first in trying to narrow down the options to the best 3 or 4. Then I had to find out all about each of their features and decide which features were more important to me. Then finally I had to choose the best platform!

I took a month to come up with a name for my blog!

I took another month to decide whether I will have one blog for everything, or one tech blog, another personal blog, and yet another hobby blog... etc...

Then I took yet another month deciding on names for each of these!
(Just today I was thinking that "WebbingMyWay" is way too loong a name... and it has no good/easy to say short form... WMW? NYAAH!)

Car or Bike?
Every morning I waste time and energy thinking about whether I should
take my bike (+get to work 5-10 mins faster, +be eco-friendly, +save money, -eat dust along the way, -bake in the sun, -risk getting stopped by the traffic cops)
take the car (+comfort, +music, -take a little longer, -less eco-friendly, - more expensive).

Now that the sun's out in all its glory here in Hyderabad I've gotten too used to the car. I don't feel like getting caked with dust while biking to work anymore. I think I'm gonna stop thinking about this every morning. Dang it! That's another choice to make!

This weekend or the next?
Man...! You don't wanna know the number of hours I've spent thinking about whether it will be better to go to Pune this weekend, or the next..., or maybe the one after that! My thumb gets sore from all the coin tossing even!
: )

So what to choose?
Some choice is better than none, but it doesn't follow that more choice is better than some choice. There's some magical amount of choice though... that is just right. And we need to find it!

The first time I went to get a Subway Sandwich I was sooo overloaded, I took half an hour to decide what I wanted. And I dint go back to Subway for a while after! (Though today I'm sort of a Subway pro, and Subs are almost like a staple diet for me now! did they make it simpler? I'm not sure...)

As far as customer/user experience is concerned, there's a huge "Keep it Simple/Less is More" movement going on all over the web, and elsewhere lately...
The point of it all is that we need to look for that tipping point... the right balance between too much choice and too few options.

On the other hand, as a person, who makes choices everyday, I guess you need to make a quick decision, and forget about the other options immediately... It just doesn't serve you to think about it once the choice has been made, and then become miserable...

If it turns out to be the less optimal choice, go
"Hmm... *shrug* So next time I'll try that other choice. I just learned something! : )
But if only I'd trusted my instinct and done it earlier, I wouldn't have had to learn it the hard way! : (
OK... no point getting miserable now... you can still choose to be happy! : )
Choose?! Again!? I give up! : "

[I am now considering whether to post this in my personal blog or on WebbingMyWay!]
AAARRRGH! I need to have just one blog! Maybe... not...


Anonymous said...

Have you paused to think that we might not have a choice at all? Everything that happens or will happen is because there was no choice ...

Anonymous said...

It isn't so much about having too many options as much as it's about how you go about making the choice. If you're given a choice between two flavors, you usually wish you were given more to choose from. However when you're given more options you complain that there are far too many. On what basis do you make these choices? If you regret making a choice, the worst possible thing to do would be to rationalize your choice and thus shift the blame onto there being far too many choices. step 1: criteria for making a choice
step 2: the courage to choose what you want.
more often than not we make what we later call the wrong choice due to external pressures.
Are you making the choice for yourself or the people around you? and do you have the courage to stick by it and not blame circumstances? it's your choice... and if it gets too tough.. toss a coin..

Pratik Stephen said...

"it's your choice... and if it gets too tough.. toss a coin.."

lol... its funny you say that, cos that is exactly what I do, when faced with a choice when both options are as good or bad and I need to pick one quick.