I'm at PC Forum, listening to Barry Schwartz talk. He's author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. The data he's rolling off is frightening: The same store that offers 29 jams sells less jam than when it offers six. For every ten 401(k) options funds a company makes availalbe to its employees, participation in the plan itself goes down 2%. Too much choice, Schwartz says, leads to paralysis, which leads to misery. Which leads to bad business, obviously.
Although people want choice (he has data to prove that, too), it makes them unhappy and lowers engagement in life and in commerce.
"The secret to happiness," Schwarz says, "is modest expectations."
So one secret to good business is a defined, reasonable product set. Don't bludgeon people with choice when it's not necessary. Focus on function and design (iPod), not feature bloat (Microsoft's Origami). To that end, at CNET we should probably take a very hard look at our own crowded front page...
[Cross-posted to the CNET Alpha Blog.]