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Choice Mental Model


There is a mental model that goes something like this: when deciding on something if there is only one option then you have no choice. If you have at least 3 options then you really have a choice and can make a more informed decision off of that based on the pros, cons and trade offs with using one approach over another.

This mental model shone through with the project I am working on now. We had a month to build a product and ended up with 3 choices:

  1. Build it from scratch
  2. Copy/paste a very similar existing product's code base and refactor and add what you need
  3. Take an existing version of the product which is not working properly and not fully complete and try to get it to work (this was also coded by a completely different team)

We decided to go with option 2 as we had the reference product successfully running in production and saw it was a good base to work off of. If we went with option 1 there is a high risk we would miss the deadline due to the volume of code we would likely need based on what has been done already for 2. Option 3 seemed the next best option but as we are working with an incomplete and buggy product as well as off someone elses code base this seemed like a road fraught with landmines and other gotchas. We are still embarking one option 2 and will see as time goes by if it is the best route but so far it seems to be the correct way to go. Our choice of option 2 also fits well with the mental model known as Occam's Razor: "Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected." In our case the hypothesis would be the choices we have.