The science behind choice reveals that although people are drawn to having choice, having too much of it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction, and inaction. Approaching IT project design without considering this paradox will yield underwhelming and ineffective results, and as this process is the bedrock of any IT initiative and the resulting outcome, it merits serious attention.
In dozens of design sessions with some of the world’s largest IT organizations, we’ve had the opportunity to not only observe this outcome-limiting paradox, but thoughtfully modify our design approach because of it. By shifting from the “blank whiteboard” approach to curating choices, you will dramatically improve your long-term business outcomes.
1. Educate your customers to make them feel comfortable
Imagine you ask a group of friends to choose a restaurant for dinner. The group conscious will most likely reflect on its past experiences for guidance. Where have they eaten before? Did they enjoy their meal? Let’s go there! It’s human nature to be drawn to options we’re familiar and comfortable with. Now imagine you ask the group the same question but additionally provide restaurant reviews by peer groups, reviews by food critics, and industry-trusted Zagat recommendations. By educating the group around the possibilities available to them, you’ve expanded their options beyond the limits of their own experiences; the same can be said for an IT design session. By educating your group around the experience of peer organizations, the technological possibilities available within manufacturers’ recommended usage, regulatory requirements or constraints, and proven industry best practices or frameworks, your group will feel more informed and more comfortable making a choice they may not have otherwise considered.
*It’s also of note that in many scenarios you need to understand the needs, constraints, and desired outcomes of the group. Your responsibility in facilitating a design session is to understand where your stakeholders want to go, where they are now, and what they perceive as constraints in getting there.
2. Provide curated choices to reduce stress, improve confidence, and make way for impactful “aha!” moments
Beyond expanding your group’s awareness of restaurant possibilities, imagine shaping this information into a few curated choices. When people have fewer good choices, they can make decisions much faster and with more confidence. Grocery chain Trader Joe’s, for example, generates higher revenue per square foot than any other grocery store, in spite of selling items for much cheaper, because they offer customers fewer choices per domain and drive higher customer action. Trader Joe’s offers customers curated choices.
By providing your group with curated choices that will all lead to their desired outcomes, you simplify the design process, make it more enjoyable, and help your group arrive at conclusions they may not have otherwise considered. Implementations designed by curated choices are almost always more robust than those built on a blank whiteboard due to higher customer action, and are built much faster and with more confidence.
3. Leave room for choice along a controlled path that is sure to reach the desired outcome
By providing curated choices, you offer enough fixedness to simplify the design process and enough agility to leave room for organization-specific needs. In our experience, customers are much more thoughtful in design when they’ve been educated around the choices available to them and the likely outcomes of those choices. It’s much easier and faster to edit the foundation of a curated choice than to originate a custom plan from scratch on a blank whiteboard. By leaving room for choice along a controlled path, you can limit outcome-impacting scope creep and help your group navigate the way to its desired outcomes.