I picked up Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat a couple of weeks ago. It’s well written and easy to read. This is a great book that I recommend to everyone who cares about the amazing ways in which the global economy is playing out today and how it will play out in the future.
But for as much as I’m enjoying that book I haven’t finished it yet. I got sidetracked by a little paperback by Barry Schwartz called The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.
This book has shot to the top of my must-read list. It talks about how the freedom to choose is important for all of us. But in the end, too many options can result in a sort of paralysis where no choice is made at all. Not only that, but there is evidence that when a myriad of selections are available, the act of deciding requires increasing amounts of our time. In the end, we are neither happier nor more satisfied with the process or the outcome.
The paradox revealed applies equally to personal decisions (buy a new house or just refinance with one of a laundry list of interest options?) as it does to assortments (are eight colors enough or will eight overwhelm, especially in five new items?).
The questions raised –and often answered — in this little book provide lots of food for thought. In a marketplace where personalization is valued even as mass production pricing is expected (another paradox), we now learn that it is just as important to focus as it is to offer alternatives. The Paradox of Choice is a tool to use in the search for balance.