• Leadership & StratEDgy

    The Leadership & StratEDgy blog is intended to be a thoughtful hub for discussion about leadership, strategy and competition in higher education.


Striving for Simplicity

Will potential students wind up more confused?

June 24, 2013

As explored in a previous StratEDgy post, we all tend to think that the more choices we have, the happier we will be. 

Generally, markets and competitive forces allow organizations in an industry to provide a range of affordable products and services from which consumers can choose.  This is mostly positive - we have the freedom to select the product or service that best meets our needs.

While options are advantageous for obvious reasons, there is a point at which too much choice might actually make life more difficult. 

In higher education, different ways of packaging educational content have recently been introduced, including MOOCs, badges, more and more certificates, different online and hybrid options, etc.

There are also new businesses, both for-profit and non-profit, designed to make things “easier” for students, whether they offer a central online space to store transcripts, or streamline the financial aid process. 

In light of this, will potential students wind up being more confused than ever about the educational options available? If so, there may be a strong case for simplification.

Research has shown that people seem to want to be able to make decisions more easily. Yes, that might mean designing simpler services to start with, but it also means crafting marketing communications that allow them to make decisions more easily.

As Forbes reports, Corporate Executive Board conducted research with 7,000 consumers and 200 marketing executives and based on their research they recommend, “Simplify the decision-making process, so much so that consumers actually think less about the decision. Marketers can do that in three easy ways by helping consumers trust the information they receive, learn effectively without distraction, and weigh options confidently.”

Other research seems to find the same result. A study by Outlaw Consulting, cited in FastCompany, found that that the youngest group of adult consumers, aged 21-27 years old, prefer companies who “keep it simple.”


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