Paralysis by Analysis: You against the Information


Routine is not organization, any more than paralysis is order.
Arthur Helps

Paralysis by analysis is risk avoidance, the fear of making a mistake. It’s the excuse of needing more and more information. Simply put, it’s the incapacity to make and stick to a decision. Is it a fear of the possible consequences? Maybe…if it could only be that.

We are bombarded with choices. Some of them require much information, some others don’t. It seems like history has proved that our great leaders are the ones able to stick to a decision and defend it. After all, we tend to respect bold, inspirational and visionary leaders. On the long run, the indecisive ones can’t fend for themselves. Indecision is not an option for progress. The political and business worlds have confirmed it many times. What do we need to know to get going on a software implementation at the workplace? We are discussed it needs and positive effects. We have an allocated budget, the staff has been mobilized and his ready to take action. Now what?

Thinking too much, every time will disrupt your performance

As I am reading Steve Job’s biography, I am surprised that amid his quest for perfection in all his endeavors, he seemed to be affected by the “paralysis by analysis” syndrome. I am surprised to read that he couldn’t make decisions; to the point where he lived in a house with no furniture. It’s an open acknowledgment of a tendency we all have: to make things much more complicated than they need to be. The excuse of needing more information is never ending. Trying to simplify things is just so hard! Those of us that decided to build an eco-friendly house would understand.

Buying health insurance, responding to a RFP and shopping for a CRM software may call for procrastination. The fear of failure and the need for perfection and even dealings with too much information at one time can lead us into inaction. While I value the positives of brainstorming and planning, too much of it confirms an unwillingness to defy the statu quo and a lack of interest in change. What often happens is that we spend so much time trying to find the single best solution that the opportunity cost of delaying the decision often outweighs the benefit of finding that single best option.

The fact is that while you are taking your time contemplating options, you are not putting anything into action. While we value the contributions of analysts and thinkers, what we need are dowers. However it plays out, no progress and possibly more problems would result out of such a dysfunctional and unproductive behavior. Taking an objective look at a situation, doing an evaluation of the damage the “paralysis by analysis” behavior will cause will help understand how our behavior and the subsequent lack of change have created additional problems. We can look and see how our behavior or lack of behavior is contributing to or not helping the situation. While doing this, it can also be helpful to think about what honest, helpful advice you would give someone else in the same situation as you are if they came to you for advice.

Here are my advices for the professional procrastinators:

1.     Get clear about what you want and what the end result should be

Write down your or the organization’s goals in some or all of these categories: operational, career, education, financial, etc. Once you have your list, whittle it down to the top 10, then down to the top 5, and then to a top 3. Do this by asking yourself: “Can I or the organization survive without this?” Let the less important goals lie dormant on a “maybe” list that you can check on again in a few months.

2.     Just do it, but don’t overdo it

Simpler is better. Should I say more?

3.     Know your flaws: Get help making decisions

If decisions are tough to make for you, use a pro/con method or get help from a friend, from your department or your colleagues. The odds are they already have an opinion and they will be happy to share it with you if it helps further the decision process…and along the way, they will appreciate the opportunity to provide input.

4.     Believe in yourself

Release the fear of failure and use time wisely: doing nothing will bring you nowhere.


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