There are a Hundred Apps For That --

March 6, 2014 Kelsey Marchand

The problem of having too many choices and how it affects your decision making.

In this age of overabundance, making choices isn’t something one does quickly or easily.

Whether it’s choosing a phone (Android of Apple? Samsung or HTC?), or choosing one of hundreds of apps for that phone –I’m talking 100+ bubble popping apps alone— when it comes to making choices, we’re not lacking in options.

Now, you would think that more options would mean more happy people. I mean, more options means more chance of finding that one perfect choice. And making perfect choices betters our lives, right?


research says (as outlined in both The Art of Choosing, and The Paradox of Choice) that after you make a decision involving many options, a fear arises that an even better option has been missed. This fear can cause all sorts of problems, and lead you to becoming unhappy with the choice you made (even if it’s the solution most compatible to you).

The New York Times did a piece based on The Art of Choosing, and mentioned a study where researchers set up a jam stall at a farmers market --every few hours switching between offering 24 varieties, and 6 varieties, of jam.

They found that:

“Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.”

So while more jam (and options) looks appealing at first, it is easier and more effective to make a decision from a smaller pool of options.

How can we apply this rule to business?

When it comes to B2C, organizations can do exactly as the researchers did: offer fewer high quality products, instead of many high quality products.

But when it comes to internal operations, how can you streamline the decision making process?

Easy. By taking a page from the jam stall study, you can reduce the information overload by having workers focus on just the important items.

And dashboards are an excellent tool for filtering and organizing important company information.

Dashboards eliminate choice overload by showing you only the important pieces of data. If it's not relevant to your job, it's not there. If you think of reports as the table with the 24 varieties of jam (the detail), dashboards are the table with 6 (the summary). By showing you less, they allow you to do more.

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