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  • Writer's pictureTony Nguyen

The power of three

I recently sat through a UI session with some developers and business analysts as they tried to choose between 2 design options. The situation made me consciously recognize a tool that I use a lot in meetings to help drive decision making.

On the board were 2 implementation approaches that the business analysts were trying to decide between and struggling with. So I added Option 3: Use what the base product provides and not code anything. We all knew it wasn't a viable option, but it provided context that the two other options we gave them were so much better that they could go with either one and be much better off.

It's seems like a silly and simplistic technique but there has been quite a bit of research done on it.

Choosing from:

  • No options: This is generally a bad idea unless it's specifically a brainstorming session or a "Understanding the problem" session. Otherwise the discussion tends to go around in circles. 

  • 1 option - No one likes being left with no alternatives

  • 2 options - You start second guessing whether you should have chosen the other one.

  • 3 options - My perfect number 

  • 4+ options - “The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.”

There's an interesting TED talk about the Paradox of choice below. 

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