The Paradox of Choice

Barry Schwartz is a smart guy. His book, “The Paradox of Choice” highlights one of the major reasons, why more choice leads to lower satisfaction. Think of cell phones. There is no such thing as a simple cell phone anymore. They are feature packed, and most consumers use only a fraction of their capability. This has huge implications for how we engage customers and how we operate our businesses. Turn choice on its head. Imagine how limiting the number of available options may actually increase customer satisfaction. Watch this TED talk:


Thinking Styles of the East vs. the West – Are Westerners doomed?

I read a book a couple of years ago titled “The Geography of Thought”, by Richard Nisbett. The book describes how Westerners and Asians think. In particular, Westerners think “in a line” and Asians think “in a circle”. Think of how the act of problem solving is accomplished by a western-thinking individual. Westerners tend to decompose, and abstract a problem until only its key elements, out of context, remain. In this way, a Westerner can study something in isolation, without external influencing factors.

Asians on the other hand look at the object under study in context, and accept that as the context changes, so does the the object under study. This leads to different and sometimes powerful insights that cannot be observed if the object is taken out of its context. Check out the article by David Brooks and Gail Collins here:

If you do business in Asia, this kind of knowledge is table stakes.

Innovation and Creativity

Read an article on the flight from Bangalore to Paris that got me thinking. It’s in the Friday, Nov 20 World Edition of the NY Times, titled “License to Wonder” by Olivia Judson. She argues that scientific discovery that is fact based and creeps along incrementally does not lead to big breakthroughs. Effectively, some scientists follow the rules of discovery they are taught, and as a result, are unable to “break through” and make the big discoveries. Judson states that sometimes, the best approach is to be intuitive and speculative. The discovery of DNA is such an example.

In the context of innovation, an orderly and planned approach locks us in to the fact-based, incremental creep of discovery. Working instead on the edge of chaos offers more opportunities for discovery and innovation. As knowledge is created, the frontier of ignorance widens leading to more possibilities for discovery and innovation. A thought provoking article.

Telecoms as Change Agents

A thought provoking article about telecom business culture. Stability and reliability are at the heart of the culture. “Cautious, difficult and careful” according to start-ups trying to sell to service providers. But the rapid commoditization of telecom services will necessarily drive change in the business model if service providers and their suppliers want to survive. Agility is one tool to help make this happen.