Choice and Well-being

Doing some research today I stumbled upon this lecture ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less‘ by a leading expert on choice and its relationship to well-being, Barry Schwartz.

According to Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, a little choice is good for you, it can increase your sense of control, but contrary to what we might logically think, having more choice is not better. In fact having too many options to choose from causes a number of problems such as:

* the inability to make a decision at all,
* making a bad decision,
* opportunity cost – worrying about ‘the one that got away’,
* expecting perfection – and getting disappointed instead.

All of these decrease your sense of satisfaction and well-being.

I’m sure you can relate this to your personal lives, but what about the world of work? Schwartz quotes six companies which are already applying the ‘paradox of choice’ principles in their businesses:

* Procter & Gamble (who also featured in this posting)
* CostCo
* Trader Joe’s
* Tesco
* Aldi
* Greek Diners in NYC

According to Schwartz, these companies are already wise to the risk that the customer may choose nothing if faced with too many options, therefore they deliberately offer a more limited selection than they could otherwise do.

It’s an interesting dilemma to be facing, whatever industry you’re in, and it’s one that’s going to get increasingly relevant as consumers become more affluent.

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