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March 29, 2007



Quite related, I saw a very interesting presentation at TED:

Barry Schwartz on TED Talks

Mr.Schwartz explains why an excess of choice is paralyzing and can make us miserable.

The presentation is interesting, with a funny example on his experience buying a pair of jeans out of 200 models!

I will probably buy his book.


PS: First time I comment. I love your blog, very funny and educational.

And today I will give the first presentation using some of the principles I have learned here.


Painters work with limited palettes, photographers work with B&W, anyone who carves(whatever the material) works with limits, stage set designers are limited by the space available : lots of examples that have been around forever, no need to look at newer disciplines!


The Paradox of Choice presents an interesting POV. This picture from TED shows emotion (happiness/unhappiness) vs. number of choices: http://snipurl.com/1eapw with a summary of his [Barry Schwartz] ideas here: http://snipurl.com/1eaq1 This is a good illustration of how to convert a presentation into a poster!

I have written on how constraints can be creatively liberating here: http://snipurl.com/1eapu

This post is a really thought-provoking article... thanks Garr.

Garr Reynolds

Thanks, guys! Good call on the Barry Schwartz material. Thank you! I read his book in 2005 and pulled it off the shelf after your reminder, I found that I had underlined several passages and made notes like "put this in the book" etc. Yes, very relevant indeed. It's all so obvious, of course, but we in the wealthy countries (which are not just in "the West"; many countries in "the East" are wealthy too) just do not take the time to ever stop to think about it. If a lot of choice is good then "a lot more" choice is even better. More choice = more freedom = more choice = well you know... Having few choices sucks, but having a billion choices is no panacea leading to happiness or freedom or fulfilment, etc. When it comes to consumer software, developers always feel the need to make the next version "bigger and better" of course.

Doesn't MS make a leaner version of Office (sort of) called Works? Fewer features, but do people want it; seems like consumers always want more, more, more. PPT 2007 on the PC (Mac version coming) is a huge improvement, parts of it are really excellent. But the reason I use Keynote on the Mac for presos is because it has *fewer* options compared to PPT.... Thanks again, guys.


For some reason the article made me think of the following quote;

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away". - Antoine de Saint-Expury

I suppose that it came to mind because it ties together the ideas of the constraints and self-discipine. Perhaps the real challenge is having the discipline to fix your own sets of contstraints - to focus on the essence of whatever the task is at hand - rather than allow the mind to wander and attempt to incorporate too many ideas.

Excellent article Garr.


I'm just curious: How many books you typically read in one Week? :)


Barry Schwartz's book is great. The TED presentation is very interesting, as well. When I read his book, I was bewildered. How can limiting choice be liberating? A few weeks later, I wanted to purchase a camera. The vast sea of choices made the task unbearable. Finally, I remembered something my father always says, "Do something, even if it is wrong!" So, I did! Dr. Schwartz is on to something...

David Zinger


I also appreciate the Paradox of Choice. Someone said we can order our beverages 87,000 different ways at Starbucks now. And even with all that choice you can't ask for a "small" coffee.

Although you may be able to contain a raging bull by placing him in a very very large field I have been encouraged by your post to seek out restraints - to think differently inside the box.




Excellent post, Garr. Makes me think of the early days of home computers, when you'd receive a holiday letter from relatives covered in terrible clip art and a jumble of fonts. Why? Because it was there.


i love the person who asked how many books you read per week. im wondering too. :)

Dick Rowan

Very meaty post, Garr. You must read in your sleep! I believe that maximizing choices was a marketing ploy in our youths, and that excessive choice is actually an illusion today. If anything, we now have fewer differentiated choices.

In an open society like ours, markets provide us with the decisions we can't or won't make by organizing and presenting them to us in packages or bundles. Brands are an example: if you want to make a safe, prudent decision, you can't go wrong buying a Toyota or whatever brand you have decided is good for you. You only need look further if you want to. Could be this frees up our minds and spirits to work on personal choices (art?) that no brand can address.

I write about this and ways to improve decision processes at my blog at http://richardrowan.typepad.com/rowans_blog_on_decision_m/

Custom Essay

Thank you for such a nice article, good luck and have a nice day=*

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