Choice Overload & How To Combat It
I found myself surfing Amazon for the perfect product. It had to be right. The right reviews. The right package design. The right specifications.
It felt like I was in a vortex. Sucking me in. Clicking and blinking. My eye's blurred. Frustration set. Just choose a damn option, I told myself. And yet, I still had 5,000 more pages to skim.
All for the perfect Multivitamin.
Yet, "The Paradox of Choice" is a true inhabitant of our modern lives.
Paradox of Choice
We see it in our daily shopping habits. Toilet paper, electronics, appliances, coffee (this is the best kind by the way), you name it. And it gets worse the more complex the sales. More options, higher priced contracts, and more at stake.
I see it at Skylink. We'll need to buy a $15,000 part and we send an RFQ to 25 companies. We know there's 2-3 on that list that are our preferred suppliers who have proven themselves. The same holds true for our clients.
We were recently apart of a $500,000 a year contract. The person leading our client's project is a friend whom we've got to know well. We've done a lot of business together. We helped create the need for our solution and the proposal. We all earned the trust that's necessary for such an endeavor.
Yet, once the RFP was ready, they sent it to 200 people...on their "email list." I get it. I understand the thought behind it. Yet when the no replies, half-hearted, incomplete proposals come back with cheap pricing... choice overload sets in.
It smacks you across the head. Thump. You go brain numb. You begin chasing the Golden Goose.
It's like what Barry Schwartz says in his Ted Talk (don't mind his shorts!)...
This leads you to regret, overwhelm and anxiety. Too many choices. It hurts.
Avoid choice overload...
Know what you want
There are things you think you want but don't need. You think you need things you don't want. How confusing.
It usually starts with a price. That's a default want. That's a purchasing objective. But is it a need?
Let's say I give you two options.
I'll sell you a product with a price of $100,000.
I'll sell you the same product for $120,000, but this product will guarantee to help you reduce future costs by $50,000.
Which product would you choose?
I hope you said option 2.
Know what you want. If it's price, fine. You may sacrifice service and quality. It's to help make your life easier, reducing total costs, getting in shape, whatever. Know the non-negotiables you want out of the choice you need to make.
If it makes you feel better, in their research Lyengar & Lepper showed that preexisting preferences or expertise did indeed have an effect on the choice overload issue: people with existing preferences were not as troubled by items when making a choice, relative to those without such preferences.
Who do you love?
This isn't some tear-jerking, sleep-inducing love story.
If you have a partner, love a product, a brand, anything, then stop your quest for the next best thing (unless they screw-up or you're shown something awesome that will take its place). It's unlikely it'll have a huge impact on your life anyway.
Build a relationship with the thing you love. Nurture it, grow it, and put more trust into it.
Work with the people whom you know, like and trust. Be predictable and get predictable choice results.
Limit your options
Requesting something from 200 half-hearted suppliers will cause you anxiety. And you're likely to make the wrong choice.
That's way too many options. Limit them.
Research suggests 4 options is manageable. Anything over 7 falls into the choice overload category.
If you need to, start with 10 and narrow it down to 3. That's fair.
These 3 suggestions are a start. They'll help you build better relationships with things and people you trust. It'll help you be better at your job. And you'll reap the rewards of being more efficient.