May 302012

analysis paralysis

Avoid Analysis Paralysis – Don’t Overthink Everything

I like analysis as much as the next left-brain MBA type person, but over time, I have learned to avoid analysis paralysis.

What is analysis paralysis?  It is when you are paralyzed by your desire to keep doing analysis until you’ve analyzed every possible variation and outcome.  You end up doing nothing because you don’t want to take a risk, even a small step, without having looked at potential problems from all angles.  It is a true sickness and it runs at epidemic levels among engineers, MBAs and other analytical types.  I speak from experience, as I’m a recovering (over)analysis addict.

So how does one get over the desire to analyze everything to death, and in the process, overcome being afflicted by analysis paralysis?  I don’t think there is one, single recommended path, but here are some ideas.

1.)      Get over yourself.  Lose the idea that you always need to be right.  Perfectionism is the enemy.  Our education system and our society often make us think that we always need to be right, but maturity and experience tell us that’s not how the world really works.

2.)      Related to #1, be willing to take risks.  You may need to start slowly in the beginning, but you’ll get there.  Remember, without risk, there typically is no reward.

3.)      Realize that we live in a world where testing is quite inexpensive for most ideas and scenarios.  Learn to test, test, test, rather than trying to make sure you’re right about everything before ever taking a step.

4.)      Learn to “fail fast”.  If you can adopt and understand that fast failures usually are the quickest path to “success,” you are likely to achieve your objectives more rapidly and more consistently.

5.)      Try some creative exercises and activities.  If you’re firmly rooted on the left side of the brain, make a concerted effort to become more creative and adventurous.  It will help you overcome your tendency toward analysis paralysis.

6.)      Understand that “fail fast” doesn’t mean “fail big”.  Look for opportunities for many small failures that will provide you with the feedback and insights you need to achieve your goals.  Being willing to fail from time to time does not equate to being willing to “bet the farm” at every opportunity.

7.)      Develop support groups.  Find other entrepreneurs and achievers who, like you, are trying to make things happen and make a difference in the world.  Use each other as a sounding board and as “accountability partners”.  Push each other to take action and learn from your mistakes.  Share what you learn with the group.

8.)      Identify role models.  Find people and stories that inspire you to take action.  Read their stories and their writings often, so you stay inspired to be proactive and make things happen.  Surround yourself with others who are trying to make a difference in the world.

9.)      Seek to be a role model and inspire others.  Be a leader.  Be an inspiration to others.  Show them not just what can be conceived, but also what can be achieved.  Put your ideas into action and become a role model for those who would do the same.

10.)   Celebrate your achievements and those of others.  Take time to “smell the roses” and reward yourself for your achievements.  Also celebrate and reward the achievements of others.  Become a champion of achievement and action and you will find that analysis paralysis will soon be a thing of the past for you and those you care about.

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

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  • Paul, good perspective. I do have a bug about the “fail fast” advice, and I congratulate you for at least almost avoiding it. Our goal isn’t to fail quickly or to fail frequently. Our real issue is getting over the fear of failure.

    I do not want to fail, period. But I’m willing to risk a lot of small failures because every one is an opportunity for a success as well, and every success can be built upon.

    As a way to break analysis paralysis? Definitely a good approach to keep in mind. One more that I would add: have a clear objective with associated metrics and then look for one or two insights or opportunities before you try to understand “everything” that is in your results. That sets you up for those small wins.

    — @wittlake

  • Thanks, Eric. Excellent points. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on the “fail fast” concept, but I think a lot of it is semantics and hinges on the definition of failure. I appreciate your stopping by and I agree with you completely regarding having clear objectives and measures of success.

  • Sylvia

    Great list of tips to remind everyone some of the elements to keep forward motion in any business! Trying to get something perfect and fear of failure will definitely result in paralysis!!! Based on my own experience cultivating a group of similar thinkers via forums, Facebook and LinkedIn is an essential part of keeping the momentum moving forward.

  • Thanks, Sylvia. I agree that cultivating a group of other thinkers, and sometimes more importantly, doers and achievers, to provide support is essential to averting analysis paralysis.

  • There are a lot of us with those problems! Great post with good tips.

  • Thanks, Sally. Yes, based on the response to this article, it’s not just left-brainers who run into the analysis paralysis problem!

  • Guilty of 4/10. The perfection bug 😀

  • Thanks, Eunice. Perfectionism can be a real challenge!

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