Analysis paralysis – it’s that “magic” time where we over analyse a situation to the extent that we become paralysed and cannot take any action. Over-thinking a problem is not necessarily a good idea – especially in business! We toss all the pros and cons over and over and over in our head and our fear of making the wrong decision stops us dead in our track. The end result is that we end up doing nothing. And that is the worst possible thing we can do.
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.Samuel Johnson
Why does analysis paralysis happen? Believe it or not, it happens to all of us at one time or another, although some are more prone to do that than others. For instance, if you have a “C” DISC personality profile, you tend to be very analytical. You approach everything in an incremental and measured way and you like to take your time before you make a decision … after the most careful considerations of all your options and the implications of each. On the other hand, if you have a high “D” DISC personality profile, you can be just rash and make your decisions quickly, sometimes without properly analysing the problem. Neither is good for business.
Napoleon Hill analysed several hundred people who had accumulated fortunes well beyond the million dollar mark. He found that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly. In addition to making decisions quickly and confidently, they also change decisions, if and when needed to, slowly. Interestingly, Napoleon Hill also found that people who fail to accumulate money, without exception, have the habit of reaching decisions, if at all, very slowly, and of changing these decisions quickly and often. His findings were reported in his 1937 book Think & Grow Rich and remains true to this day.
How can we avoid this condition? How can we make sure that we do not stop our business success because of analysis paralysis? First, we need to understand WHY we have a need to analyse everything to the Nth degree before we make a decision. Are we really searching for the facts and the truth or is there really another reason for our obsession to get it right? When you peel it all back, analysis paralysis happens because of the fear of failure. We are afraid that the decision we make will be wrong or it won’t be the “perfect” decision.
I mentor some business owners who are predisposed to analysis paralysis. My advice to them were to remember that:
1. Failure is not always bad
The unofficial motto in Silicon Valley is “Fail fast, fail forward”. The fact is that if you have never failed, then you have never tried. None of us have a perfect record. We will never be able to go through life without any failures at all. It took Edison 10,000 attempts before he got it right with the electric bulb. Not too many people would have survived that many failures and still have the persistence to keep going. Aren’t we glad that he did? Failure in itself, is not a bad thing … as long as we learn from our failures. Just remember, the sun will still rise and the sun will still set. It’s not life threatening for us to fail. It is only our ego that takes a hit. And that is sometimes a good thing 🙂
2. Playing the tape forward will give clarity
Consider whether the decision required is going to be a BIG thing. If you did make a bad decision, what is the worst that can happen? How will that impact your business? How important is it to you and your business? You will find that few decisions are as important as you think they are. Most decisions will, in fact, have very little impact on our lives and our business. Only a small handful of decisions are going to be “life changing” and have the ability to affect our lives in the long run.
3. It’s never going to be perfect
You must acknowledge that it’s never EVER going to be perfect. Unless you are dealing with a life or death matter, perfection is rarely the answer. The 80/20 Pareto Rule applies. 20% of the effort will give you 80% of the result you want. If you want to nail that last 20%, you will have to put in a humongous effort – that effort may be better placed doing something else that can produce greater benefits. In business, you will have to justify the time investment needed to nail that last 20%. Take bookkeeping as an example. Would you want your accountant to charge you $500 of his time to find the $5 missing from your petty cash tin? I would suggest you would baulk at the idea of wasting that kind of money.
4. Getting a second opinion is a good thing to do
If after weighing up all the pros and cons, you STILL struggle to come to a decision, do go and get a second opinion. The key here is to get the second opinion – not the third, and fourth and fifth opinion. As long as you have sought the opinion of a trusted adviser, you should then just make that decision. Stop procrastinating. Let’s face it – even if your choice turns out to be not-so-good, just the act of making that decision and doing something about it will help you achieve 10 times more than being stuck in analysis paralysis doing nothing.
5. Setting a time limit is a must
If you know that you are prone to analysis paralysis, then set yourself a deadline by which you MUST reach a decision. If it’s an important matter, you may want to allow a longer period for you to consider your options. On deadline date, you MUST then make a decision even if you feel that you do not have the full facts. Just make your decision based on what you already know and run with it. Taking action, even if it turns out to be wrong, is better than taking no action at all. Without a deadline, you will likely just drift into what I call the “I’m a gonna land.” I know many people like that – they’re gonna do a lot of things … one day … when the sky falls down, when the conditions are perfect and the stars align. That is the surest way to guarantee that you will do nothing.