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So Many Choices, So Little Time

Strategic Staffing

Do you think having choices is bad? I do. Well, having too many choices is bad. It can be paralyzing for a lot of us. Ever to go a restaurant where the menu is the size of War and Peace? When that is the situation how long does it take you to decide what to order? Studies have shown that having all these options is making it difficult for us to decide on just one thing.

Sheena Iyengar, a professor at the Columbia School of Business, performed an experiment where she set up a booth of samples of jams. Every few hours, she switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. On average, customers tasted two jams, regardless of the size of the assortment, and each one received a coupon good for $1 off one jar of jam.

Here’s the interesting part: 60 percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar!

Unfortunately, we have come to live in a culture of overchoice, which makes it hard for us to make a decision. I struggled with overchoice when I went to buy a car, I simply had too many options to choose from. I also struggled with this when picking out a new mattress. In evaluating all the choices, the questions were almost always; Is this the best I can do? What if the other is better? What am I missing?

The flip side to having too many choices is not having any choices at all, and that of course is unacceptable. It seems that having choices is good but too many choices is bad, and that the happy medium between the two must be somewhere between zero and not too many.


“When people have too many choices, they make bad choices.”– Thom Browne

When was a time that you also felt overwhelmed with too many choices, and how did you decide?

Have a great weekend.