After attending the Barry Schwartz presentation about “The Paradox of Choice” at Shop.org’s Annual Summit back in September, I was excited to read his book of the same name. Schwartz points out that despite the fact that people with more choices may, in the long run, end up with a better overall outcome, they will be less satisfied with that outcome. This is because an endless supply of choices leads to stress, added effort to find the best choice, and regret after the choice is made. These ideas really struck a chord with me, as I myself am a “maximizer”, someone who insists on finding the very best solution even when others that are more easily available would serve me almost as well with far less effort, so I quickly found the book at a local library.
Although the Shop.org presentation was geared towards retailers aiming to offer a better experience to their customers via less stressful choice, I read the book for my own personal gain. If I could learn to “satisfice” instead of “maximize”, according to Schwartz, I’d be a happier guy. Unfortunately, the book spend most of its 288 pages trying to convince me that choice is a problem — a fact of which I was convinced during his speech — and offered little advice for how to avoid the pitfalls of choice and become happier. As GI Joe told me, knowing is half the battle, so I suppose that the book’s seemingly endless examples of choice paradoxes will only serve to help me recognize maximizing situations in the future, but I still could not help wishing there was more of a solution in sight.
One thing I do like about The Paradox of Choice is that it doesn’t have a catchy name that includes barking cats or purple cows. It presents actual ideas with real examples. Its a quick read, so check it out.