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Too Much Choice

By Steve Jones,

As this piece shows, more information can be bad. As drivers get more choices, options, and opportunities to interact with information, they may not be driving as well as they otherwise might. Restaurants and retailers have seen something similar. Too much information either prevents decisions or slows the process. I know when I go to a restaurant that has too large a menu, I often find myself taking a long time to decide on an item.

I think this can certainly be a problem for our clients in technology, as we discuss specifications and requirements with them. If we allow clients too many choices, and too many options, it can be hard for them to make a decision, much less understand the implications of their choices. As software professionals, we need to give clients two or three options, but recommend one and explain in a fairly simple manner what the advantages and disadvantages of each solution are.

Too much choice can also be a problem for us in technology. If we have too many architectural options, we can debate entirely too long. If we have too many requirements, we may be unable to get work done if we can't focus or distill them all down. If we have too many concerns, we may not find an effective solution because we're looking for a perfect one. The latter is a situation I find all too often with developers that want a perfect, 100% solution when a 90% one will work fine because the edge cases so rarely occur.

The exceptions to this, both in my restaurant experience, and in research, are when the person already knows what they want, or they have some preconceived idea. That can be good for us in technology, as we can move quickly when we have some idea of what is needed. However this is a double edged sword as it can lead us to work with tunnel vision, not thinking about the alternatives or possibilities we may face.

In general I think more information is better than less, but we can't let the abundance paralyze us from moving forward and accomplishing work.

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Steve Jones