Thursday, October 23, 2014

Associations and the Paradox of Choice


Early in my career, I advocated multiple member benefits through what I called “membership of your choice.”

There are now several books and magazines devoted to what is called the "voluntary simplicity" movement. Its core idea is that we have too many choices, too many decisions, too little time to do what is really important.

Some of this began with The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less a 2004 book by American psychologist Barry Schwartz. In the book, Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.

I thought of this when I read about the troubles at Olive Garden. Here’s a quote that caught my eye:
  • That does, however, bring me to another problem Olive Garden has: an overwhelming number of options. Executives acknowledge the need to simplify the menu, which has been criticized for mushrooming to nearly 100 items, including burgers. Still, Darden president Eugene Lee recently said it's hard deciding what to get rid of because "everybody has their favorite." 
Not that the problems at Olive Garden resulted in the firing of the entire board at its parent Darden.

Associations, like Darden, are often unable or unwilling to drop programs or services ... because everyone has their favorite.

I once managed a small trade association that continued to expand programs. Ultimately, I realized that each board member had a favorite project and that the board’s culture was “if you don’t cut my program, I won’t cut yours.”

Perhaps associations need to consider whether volunteer simplicity becomes a strategy worth pursuing.

What do you think? Does your association face a surplus of programs and services? How do you deal with it?

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