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Paralyzed By Choice

I heard a really interesting podcast recently. The guest was a researcher who studies how people make choices and her conclusions were both fascinating and directly applicable to owning and running a business. Initially, she explained, researchers expected to find that the more choices people have, the happier they are.

This makes sense when you think about it. Imagine the photos of grocery store shelves in the Soviet Union. There was just one type of each product. It looked so depressing. When people from developing countries see pictures of a Walmart, they are blown away by the sheer volume and choices of products. But the more researchers studied consumer behavior, they found something else:


I have certainly seen this with my own family. Have you ever stood in front of the wall of cereal or yogurt at the grocery store and just been so overwhelmed you walked away with nothing? .There are just too many options with only minor differences between them and it becomes impossible to find exactly what you want.

So how does this apply to running your own business?

It applies in two different ways. First, think about the list of products and/or services you offer and ask yourself if you are offering too many choices. You may think you are trying to offer flexibility to your clients, but you may really be hindering them from making a choice. Pare down your offerings and see if it makes a difference. On the podcast I was listening to, the researchers found that by cutting in half the number of choices offered for a particular product in a grocery store, the sales increased by more than double!

Second, as a business owner, I think we get overwhelmed by the number of strategic choices we have. There are so many different ways we can grow our business that it becomes really difficult to focus on just one or two. Consequently, we are trying three, five, seven new strategies all at the same time and, unsurprisingly, getting nowhere with each of them. Pare down your options. Focus on one or two strategic initiatives and devote your time, energy, and resources to those. You, and your business, cannot be everything to everyone.

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