Analysis Paralysis is defined as a state of over analyzing a problem to the point where no action is being taken. It describes a situation where the decision making process is overwhelmed by the tendency to over analyse the factors affecting the decision.
A good example of analysis paralysis occurs when a person is asked to purchase a product he never had any use before. When presented with multiple options with seemingly the same value and utility, the buyer will likely dither on each and every item. He will be unwilling to decide what to buy simply because he is afraid of making the wrong choice.
This fear of making the wrong choice is the root cause of the paralysis. It’s normal for us to want to avoid making mistakes. We typically make a decision based on the information at hand. If we see dark clouds, we make sure we dress right and bring an umbrella. If our smartphone’s weather app says it will be a warm day with a slight chance of rain, the decision becomes less simple.
As more and more information is uncovered, we start to become overwhelmed. Even if the amount of information available is already excessive, we still want to process everything before making a decision. This is when the paralysis sets in.
A business owner affected by this state might feel reluctant to decide on a purchase because he is afraid of getting stuck with useless inventory. Someone who wants to start his own business may continually make excuses because he wants to take his time to analyse the situation.
You know you’re affected by analysis paralysis when important decisions start piling up and you’re reluctant to decide on any of them. You might feel that you need to review the situation further, which really just a very convenient excuse to defer things for later. In the back of your mind you hope that it will be easier to make a decision later.
You might say that analysis is crucial and we shouldn’t rush our decisions. This is true, but you need to keep in mind that the end goal of any planning or analysis is to decide on a course of action. If you keep reconsidering your plans because you want to have an exhaustive analysis of the situation then you’ll never be able to move forward. A balance must be struck between how much analysis is needed versus the timeframe of your plan.
There are ways to break through this paralysis. Here are a few useful strategies:
- Get an expert’s perspective. Ask for advice from someone who is more familiar with the issue. They may be able to give you a better perspective.
- Stick to a timeframe. Over analysis eats up time that could be used to implement the decision. A coach needs to make quick informed decisions in real time, based on factors that change continuously. This is an ideal type of decision making process.
- Delegate the decision into several smaller ones. Break it up and give it to your trusted employees. An overly complicated issue is very difficult to act on. Giving members of your team a part in the decision making progress can actually help speed it up. You can put the decision up for a vote and base your decision on that. Just make sure you’re assigning to competent people you trust.