3 examples of too much choice being less choice

I was lucky enough to hear Youngme Moon talk about her book Different at Bos2010 and I have been very visibly reminded of it in recent weeks. She teaches at Harvard Business School and her central argument is that most companies are becoming similar to each other by trying to fill perceived weaknesses rather than focussing on differentiation and their strengths. I end up with too many options and too much information but no real choices.

Rather than being given a clear choice, the consumer is faced with a bewildering array of increasingly similar products. Give me a small number of distinct choices and I can choose – give me a huge selection with no clear real differences and I panic. Also, give me some guidance so I do not drown in information.

1. How do I choose a computer?

I went into PCWorld (a computer shop) last week to look for some new kit. There was about 30 machines offering alsorts of architectures, speeds and bundled with different sets of peripherals. Luckily, I thought this would be really easy as I wanted a specific size and a high spec processor  – no matches matched the specification! So much for lots of choice…

2. Have you tried to buy a phone recently?

You have a choice of Pay as You go, fixed contract, rolling contract and 4 network operators (and that is before you have even looked at the phones). Then you look at the vast array of phone models and the one you want is not available with the right mix of network/contract. No wonder so many people just buy an IPhone.

3. Where does a new visitor start on this site?

I have been listening to some brilliant audio stories by a production company called BigFinish. They do lots of new scifi stories from old classics (Dr Who, Blake’s 7, etc). This is essential background listening to more mundane programming or admin tasks. I always listen to them when they appear on the BCC radio stations and they have loads more to buy from their website. The problem is that they try to pack everything onto the site so there is no real information for the first-time user so I end up not buying anything because I am confused. As an example, what does this mean?

Subscribe to 12 consecutive Doctor Who releases from the title of
your choice. Starting with Any Release from #1 - #38 ONLY.
DO NOT PRESS THE ADD TO CART BUTTON.
CLICK ON THE ABOVE LINK. Now downloadable in mp3 format!

Do you have any examples where the appearance of too much choice has actually made it hard to choose and even put you off buying things?

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Mark Stephens

System Architect and Lead Developer at IDRSolutions
Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.
Markee174

About Mark Stephens

Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX.

He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.

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