Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Knowing what we want — more choice (or too much)?

In coevolving technology and business, do we actually know what we want?  This may come with a presumption that more choice is better than less choice.  In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz suggests that we may think that we’re going to be happier with more choice, but in fact, we’re probably not.

I first listened to the audio recording of Barry Schwartz’s talk, "Less is More" at the Pop!Tech 2004 conference.  (For a visual approach to the content, look at the sketch by Peter Durand of Alphachimp Studio). The idea is simple, but Schwartz isn’t just a journalist, he’s a professor of psychology.  I’ve now been reading the book.  Since I’m a reader of footnotes, the book provides a lot of foundations from psychology.

In the prologue of the book, Schwartz starts off with references to political philosophy Isaiah Berlin, on the distinction between "negative liberty" and "positive liberty".  He then cites Amartya Sen (Nobel laureaute in Economics) and Development as Freedom.  Schwartz argues that:

  1. We would be better off we we embraced certain voluntary constraints on our freedom of choice, instead of rebelling against them.
  2. We would be better off seeking what was "good enough" instead of seeking the best (have you ever heard a parent say, "I want only the ‘good enough’ for my kids"?).
  3. We would be better off if we lowered our expectations about the results of decisions.
  4. We would be better off if the decisions we made were nonreversible.
  5. We would be better off if we paid less attention to what others around us were doing.  [p. 8]

Chapter 1 describes the choices we (in the first world) have in shopping, and Chapter 2 lists the choices we have in utilities, health insurance, retirement plans, medical care, beauty, work, love, religion, and identity.  From there, the book delves more a deeper discussion, leading off with "Deciding and Choosing" — much related to the prospect theory of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

Schwartz leads his narrative (mostly) through a world of goods and services from which we make selections.  If you look a little more deeply into the "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk" published in Econometrica in 1979, you’ll see a more time-oriented view, where there’s choices between a "sure thing" right now, and a risky outcome in the future.

Recentering the discussion on coevolving technology and business, the paradox of choice and prospect theory may mean that even though we could figure out the end that we really want, that end may not be rationally appropriate (since there’s risk in an uncertain future).  And business is all about rationality, right?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • RSS qoto.org/@daviding (Mastodon)

  • RSS on IngBrief

    • Goal, objective, ideal, pursuits (Ackoff & Emery, 1972)
      While Ackoff’s definitions of goals, objectives and ideals have been republished (and rewritten) multiple times, the 1972 definitions were derived from his original dissertation work.  Accordingly, in addition to the human-readable definitions, some mathematical notation is introduced. — begin paste — OUTCOMES 2.30. End (an immediate intended outcome) of a subject A in a particular […]
    • Pure Inquiring Systems: Antiteleology | The Design of Inquiring Systems | C. West Churchman | 1971
      The fifth way of knowing, as described by West Churchman, is a Singerian inquiring system. (This fifth way of knowing is more colloquially called Unbounded Systems Thinking in Mitroff and Linstone (1993)). The book On Purposeful Systems (Ackoff and Emery, 1972) was derived by Ackoff’s dissertation that was controversially coauthored with West Churchman. Purpose can […]
    • Process-Function Ecology, Wicked Problems, Ecological Evolution | Vasishth | Spanda J | 2015
      Understanding Process-Function Ecology by Ashwani Vasishth leads to luminaries in the systems sciences, including C. West Churchman, Eugene P. Odum and Timothy F.H. Allen.
    • The Innovation Delusion | Lee Vinsel, Andrew L. Russell | 2020
      As an irony, the 2020 book, The Innovation Delusion by #LeeVinsel @STS_News + #AndrewLRussell @RussellProf shouldn’t be seen as an innovation, but an encouragement to join @The_Maintainers where an ongoing thought network can continue. The subtitle “How Our Obsession with the New has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most” recognizes actual innovation, as distinct from […]
    • Republishing on Facebook as “good for the world” or “bad for the world” (NY Times, 2020/11/24)
      An online social network reproduces content partially based on algorithms, and partially based on the judgements made by human beings. Either may be viewed as positive or negative. > The trade-offs came into focus this month [November 2020], when Facebook engineers and data scientists posted the results of a series of experiments called “P(Bad for […]
    • 1969, 1981 Emery, System Thinking: Selected Readings
      Social Systems Science graduate students in 1970s-1980s with #RussellAckoff, #EricTrist + #HasanOzbehkhan at U. Pennsylvania Wharton School were assigned the Penguin paperback #SystemsThinking reader edited by #FredEEmery, with updated editions evolving contents.
  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • RSS on daviding.com

  • RSS on Media Queue

  • Meta

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
    Theme modified from DevDmBootstrap4 by Danny Machal