About LAS

LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Tess Robinson

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Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over fifteen years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning seven years ago.

Paralysed by choice – why curation is important

By Tess Robinson
Posted 30 January 2018

In 2015, Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO took the decision to remove 1/3 of products from Tesco shelves. Why? Tesco found their customers were so baffled by the vast array of products – 13 varieties of foil, 228 different air fresheners and 28 types of ketchup, for example – that they were literally paralysed by choice and would rather buy nothing, than work through decision-making processes to find the right product for them. They were losing customers to stores like Aldi and Lidl who offered a much more simplified shopping experience. The weekly shop was becoming exhausting and time-consuming and Tesco realised that this had to change for them to remain competitive.

Whilst it’s true that autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, too much of a good thing can create a Paradox of Choice. Psychologist, Barry Schwartz, discusses this in this TED talk. The Talk is 12 years old – love the mobile phone reference – but still very relevant.

This Paradox of Choice was perfectly illustrated in a study by Sheena Iyengar from Columbia University. They set up a jam tasting at a supermarket in California offering samples of either 6 or 24 flavours of jam. Previously, the thinking was that more options should lead to more sales, but this was proved not to be the case. Although when more favours were offered 20% more people stopped to taste the jam, only 3% of the group who tasted 24 flavours bought a jar compared to 30% of the group who only tasted 6. The group with more choice were paralysed into inaction.

If you’ve ever been to the massive Learning Technologies exhibition in London, you may well recognise the feeling that Tesco identified. The amount and variety of digital learning options on offer is really quite overwhelming.

When you’re faced with so many options, it can be easier just to walk away. But do we really want less choice? Or is it rather that we want (and need) someone or something to curate the choices for us. Narrowing them down and helping us to identify the providers, tools and systems that are right for us?

The same goes for content. We are literally awash with content these days. The internet has ensured that it’s coming out of our ears. As learners, what we want (and expect) is that all this noise will be filtered for us, to create personalised experiences and content. This happens all the time in everyday life. Look at the ads in your Facebook feed. Mine are all for running (new hobby), building materials (we’re planning a renovation) and food (I like my food). Tailored, rather more precisely than is comfortable, to my interests and browsing history. It would be a total waste of time and advertiser’s money, not to mention a turn-off for me, to bombard me with ads for stuff that aren’t relevant to me. Same goes for learning content.

This personalisation is particularly important for millennials, or indeed anyone new to their role, who may not have the experience in their fields to know the difference between content that’s just dross and the good stuff. There are several ways to do this – via a curation tool, the power of the community or learning leaders for example.

Next time you’re designing learning think about how to narrow down your delivery options. Consider which moment of learning need your project speaks to. How soon do you need it? How big is the problem or opportunity? This will help you to filter the possibilities and choose the right technology to deliver your learning. Also bear in mind the number of options you’re giving learners. Less choice doesn’t mean no choice. Just bringing it down to a level of options that is comfortable for the human brain.

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