More choice does not necessarily make for happier clients. We see it all the time. We don’t send homeowners to look at tile options at the tile shops in town anymore precisely for this reason. Tile now comes in so many sizes, shapes, colors, patterns and sheens that it is ridiculously overwhelming to walk into a tile shop. Overwhelming even for us as architects, it would leave our clients pulling their hair out. The psychologist and Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz tackles the subject quite well in his TED lecture, The Paradox of Choice:
Schwartz boils it down to a couple of points highly relevant for the design and construction industry. He says that all these choices have 2 negative effects:
1. It produces paralysis rather than liberation; with so many options to choose from people find it very hard to choose at all.
2. Even if we overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from. The more options there are the easier it is to regret about the option you chose.
He goes on to say “Adding options to people’s lives can’t help but increase the expectations people have about how good those options will be and what that’s going to produce is less satisfaction with results, even when they’re good results.”
His dialogue is good stuff for us architects to chew on. We wonder if homeowners were more satisfied in times past when there were only a couple types of flooring options, a couple types of window packages, only a handful of faucets. With the options available today it is infeasible on a project with a reasonable budget to explore all the varieties of fixtures, appliances, materials, colors, finishes, etc. In our current culture, we feel it is the architect’s job to help their clients navigate through the options – it’s our job to apply our knowledge and experience to create a filter for all the options out there. In order for this system to work well, we diligently foster our client relationships so they can grow to trust our advice and make sound decisions. It’s a delicate balance, and one in constant flux depending upon the needs, options, the technology, experience and wisdom (of both designer and client). But that’s just our take on the paradox of choice. There are many methods to navigate through the treacherous waters of excessive choice and we’d love to hear from you.