Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Illusion of Choice


Let’s imagine that you have accepted an invite to hang out at my place. Creepy I know. Anyway, we are chatting and realise that it would be good to have some music playing. I say “pick an album from my collection, anything you like…”



Is there an album in there that you would choose to listen to? Was what you really wanted to listen to? This is the illusion of choice.

When I do this as a presentation, roughly half the attendees answer Yes to the first question, then roughly half of them drop their hand for the second question.

The illusion of choice is one sure way to ruin a Lean Start-up experiment. If you fall into the illusion of choice you are just re-enforcing your pre-existing notion of what is true. Should you continue to do this you will not learn the truth from your experiments. Read on to see what I mean.



When Telstra Wholesale started its journey to Open APIs; they came armed with a survey from their 200+ customers about which APIs were most important to them. Unfortunately, the list of APIs to choose from was provided by Telstra, a bit like my CD collection. The customers dutifully prioritise that list and there were some clear winners. Telstra built those APIs and deployed them, guess how many customers installed them? That’s right ZERO.

Thank fully Telstra Wholesale realised their mistake and went to their customers. This time they asked them how they used APIs, how APIs helped their business. Through this they found some common themes. They built and deployed the most needed API and got immediate uptake. The uptake increased as the expanded the first API and added more.

To apply this concept: Surveys need to be open not closed, otherwise we just confirm our own guesses.


The survey on the left is easier for our respondents to fill in and easier for you to analyse, however it is a closed survey. The survey on the left requires more effort from our respondent and a lot more analysis effort on your behalf; however, it is open and will generate more knowledge.

There are more approaches to keeping a survey open, but this is a key one.

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