It All Started with Shopping for Jam

It all started with jam. Years ago researchers Sheena Iyengar and her colleague Mark Lepper did a study in which, on one day, shoppers were offered a selection of 24 jams. The table crowded with lots of jam attracted a lot of interest. Shoppers gawked and marveled at all the jam. The next day, the table offered just 6 choices of jam.

When it came time to buy, those presented with 24 choices, were 1/10th as likely to purchase a jar of jam than those presented with just 6 choices. When presented with lots of choice we are often more likely to make a worse decision, make a decision we are more likely to regret later, or make no decision at all.

More choice does not always lead to better decisions. More choice does not necessarily mean better solutions. And more choices for learning does not necessarily lead to more enlightenment, or more action, or more impact.

Buyers remorse and decision paralysis are likely when confronted by more choice than we can mentally process.

The choice overload problem is true when it comes to career decisions, buying houses, picking ice cream flavors, and even buying cars. In one study, car buyers were invited to pick their interior color (56 choices), exterior color (13), engine and gearbox (25), wheels/rims (13), and even the style of the rearview mirror (7 choices). They could get exactly the car they wanted. In the end, buyers were much less satisfied with their choices, than those buyers who didn’t get to customize their car at all.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean to say variety is all bad. More choices in clothing sizes means you are more likely to find a better fit. More TED talks means you are more likely to find one that speaks to you, and more academic research means you are more likely to find just the right one, if you look hard enough.

At my last company developing leadership video content I was responsible for making thousands of learning objects, thousands of videos, and thousands of learning support materials.

After a few years of chasing more a funny thing happened. I started to lament that the jewels, the really beautiful and powerful interviews were getting lost in the library stacks. People couldn’t find them. So we created “editor’s picks” to make sure the best stuff was getting attention.

The people at Mindscaling have created businesses in the past that offer lots of choice. That’s not our goal now. Our goal at Mindscaling is to craft each course, one at a time. And make them each beautiful and meaningful. We’re going for quality. I once interviewed Yvon Chouinard who said:

“I’ve yet to meet a business problem that cannot be solved by increasing quality.”
– Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

We’re working on a new one on productivity with Laura Stack. Have a look at a few screen shots.

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Mindscaling partners with world-class bestselling thought-leaders to build rich learning experiences. Each course is short, high-impact, fun, and applicable. We believe it’s not about taking more courses, but having a powerful learning experience.

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