Paradox of Choice

I attended an event a few months back that was organised by a high end fashion and lifestyle magazine. I’m a serial networker so going into a room not knowing anyone does not phase me, I always carry plenty of business cards and love talking to people and learning about what they do.

This event got me nervous though, what was I going to wear? I think I’m always presentable but wouldn’t call myself ‘fashionable’ – I don’t read fashion magazine, I’m not au faux with the latest trends or hair styles. My hair does what it wants, I don’t enjoy the process of putting make up on (that’s ten minutes more I could have in bed!) and I wear clothes that fit, in colours that don’t clash with my skin tone.

At the time of this event I was having some emergency structural work done on the house so had moved out and was staying with family. I’d half forgotten about this event when I was packing and when the reminder popped up on my calendar I had a little panic about what to wear and scurried off to look at what I had packed. There were two choices, that was it, two dresses hanging up in the wardrobe, one blazer that would work with both of them and one pair of shoes. I tried both on, picked the one that felt most comfortable and pottered off.

On the way to the event I started thinking about how the process of choosing an outfit would have gone if I was at home with my full wardrobe. The bedroom would have been destroyed within minutes, clothes would have been strewn everywhere, I would have tried numerous outfits on, shoes would be scattered about all over the place and I would have probably ended up wailing ‘I have NOTHING to wear!’ after trying on 14 different outfits.

I had made the decision making process easier for myself by taking away all the possible choices and leaving myself with two.

Then it clicked, I do it on a daily basis for clients, why don’t I do it more for myself? My job is to make the decision making process easier, I present clients with a minimum of 3, maximum of 4 options for an event, any more than that and it would be impossible to confirm anything in a timely manner. They’d be weighed down with the choices, too much information to process, too many options to consider.

The Jam Study springs to mind, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted an experiment to see how offering a different number of choices affected sales. They found that consumers were 10 times more likely to make a purchase when the number of jams to choose from was reduced from 24 to 6. Seems this rule applies to my wardrobe and choosing a venue for an event too!