Decision Maker, Decisive ChoiceWe equate choices with freedom.  But we have so many choices these days that things are ridiculously debilitating.  Just check out your local grocery store or electronics center.

Choices produce paralysis.  With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.  And, in fact, when we have too many choices we are actually less satisfied than if we had fewer choices to begin with.  Why?  Because it’s easy to imagine a better alternative and that eventually subtracts from our happiness with any decision we make.

The more options there are, the easier it becomes to regret your decision.  If anything at all is disappointing about the option that you chose (no matter how small the disappointment), you’ll find yourself wishing you had chosen one of the other options, convincing yourself it would have been better.  But worse yet, with too many options, expectations rise, setting the perception that because things were so painful in choosing, what you are getting should be perfect.

In the end, too many choices up front dooms you to be disappointed.  For more details, check out this TED talk on the paradox of choice.

Why this is important for picking software

When I was little, picking something I wanted or needed was relatively simple.  Why? Because I didn’t have a lot of choices so I couldn’t pontificate about it for three months.

To understand why picking software is so hard, we first have to look at how it works for larger companies.  It basically breaks down into four steps (my apologies to my consulting friends for a grossly oversimplified software selection process):

  1. Make a ridiculously long list of crap you need your software to do
  2. Go out and ask software vendors if they can meet those requirements (hint: they all say yes regardless of what’s on your list)
  3. Narrow down to the top 3 and write pros/cons
  4. Present to decision makers with a recommendation

Step #1 is really where I’ve seen things get wildly out of control.

Making a ridiculously long list of crap you want.

We’ve all done it; you start with two or three things you need to accomplish in your business and a few days/meetings go by and voila – you now have a list that has grown to about a dozen “mission critical” items.

And you probably feel better about it.  After all, nothing is as simple as just two to three things, right?  Clearly something was missing.  That list of a dozen feels…more comfortable somehow.

Then a few more days and meetings go by and now the list has grown to twenty-seven.  Except now the list is starting to include things like your accounting system and your inventory system and you just know within a few more meetings a new bar coding system for the warehouse will be on there as well as some other weird stuff like an improved coffee solution for the back office.

What started as a relatively simple task has now ballooned into the project from hell as you analyze how to rebuild your entire business (and culture).

WTF just happened? We’ll get into that in part two…stay tuned.