I found an article recently that too much choice has a negative impact. Excessive Choice – The Frontal Cortex documents an experiment where presents test subjects with fewer choices of chocolate increased the happiness of the outcome. Where subjects were presented with thirty or more choices, they were more unhappy with the choice that was made.
Intuitive – well yes, and no
I find this intuitive as an experience, while realising that I have the same problem. For example. when I am analysing load balancers to choose for a network design, you really are going to choose from Cisco or F5. Each product has clear differentiators so the choice is usually straightforward.
But choosing between switching products is less clear. For example, The Cisco 6500 is now not really suitable for 10Gig networks because it doesn’t have enough backplane/blade bandwidth, and the Nexus 7000/5000 isn’t ready for mainstream deployment ((it should be ready in a year or so when the new blades ship, its really only pilot and testing at the moment)).
So now we might be looking at alternatives such as Foundry, Force10 and the whole array of players who produce 10Gb switches. But which one to choose from ? The range of choice and product separation can be quite small, and you can waste a lot of time considering from what are essentially identical products.
This research also suggests that you are likely to be unhappy with the outcome, regardless of your choice. I guess it is some form of buyers remorse that sets in, but this is certainly true in my experience.
Choosing Cisco is easy
For many companies, choosing Cisco as a prime supplier is easy. And we justify this in terms of leading service and good products etc, but this research also suggests that restricting the choices means that you will be happier with the outcome. By selecting only from the Cisco price list, you may perceive that your happiness level will be higher as your mind is happier with less choice.
Fascinating isn’t it. By restricting your choices you may actually be reinforcing your belief that you are making the right decision.
I am not going to denigrate other areas such as TAC support, Purchasing panel agreements, Cisco Pre-sales engineers, and free t-shirts in influencing our decisions, but the purchasing decision can be complicated.
When I commence a design, I am really looking to reduce the variables in front of me to a manageable form. I want to reduce my choices so that selection becomes a positive process rather than a negative one. That is, I will discard design options in the early stages by focussing on negatives, but later I want to have positive messages and focus on strengths, not weaknesses, and features not threats. Why ? Because the decision makers often need to feel ‘good’ about a decision, and a meeting which covers the negatives will often lead to a delayed decision or lack of project progress.
What I had not realised, was that reducing choices actually made for ‘happier choosing’ after the fact.
I like that. We need more happiness.