Stop Being a Victim of Analysis Paralysis – Just Do It




  • August 24, 2015

    Three months ago, a young tech startup in San Antonio began mining data to improve their marketing efforts, products and services. The fruits of their labor – a rag-tag collection of reports and documents – lay strewn across their desks and laptops. They thought all the answers were right there, everything the company needed to go from a Kickstarter hopeful to an industry leader.


    But without proper execution, all these fresh-faced entrepreneurs had were hundreds of ideas on how to draw a pie chart.


    I’m telling you this story not because I want to single out a young tech firm in Texas, but because it serves as an example, that in an era when information is often just two clicks away, analysis paralysis can be the undoing of your fledgling business as you delay all your plans just to comb over numbers, because you are too scared that you may have missed one crucial detail.


    I run into business owners stuck in this analytical rut dozens of times each year. Their fingers are covered in paper cuts, and their eyes are red from scanning through report after report, hoping to uncover the magic formula.


    Here’s a reality check: The actions that entrepreneurs take – and not the data – define their success or failure.


    That’s not to say Google Analytics and point-of-sale metrics aren’t important to a growing enterprise; in fact, the data from these sources should be the bases for every business decision. In the end, though, entrepreneurs need know when to trust their instinct and translate data into action.


    Set a Deadline

    “Deadlines refine the mind. They remove variables like exotic materials and processes that take too long. The closer the deadline, the more likely you’ll start thinking waaay outside the box.”


    — Adam Savage, Actor


    This is nowhere truer than in the business world. You know your company, you know the window you have to grab your foothold in the market, and that means you know when the cutoff is to execute your business plan.


    It is human nature to procrastinate, and when poring over business metrics, the temptation to do so is even greater. There is always one more content report, one more factor you overlooked, one more reason to delay the next step.


    Setting a deadline for data analysis will push you to take that pivotal step to bring weeks of critical thinking and number crunching to action.


    Don’t Exile Yourself

    A few years ago, I had a friend who was stuck in the midst of analysis paralysis. His young company showed plenty of promise. All of the ingredients for success were there: an in-demand service, mediocre competition and plenty of data about his target market. But he just couldn’t settle on a business plan. The problem was he would sit there staring at the data alone, letting his mind slip into the same self-destructive loop.


    The breakthrough came one caffeine-laced evening at around midnight when, out of desperation, he woke up his sleeping wife and shoved the reports onto her lap. Within a day, he had an actionable plan. As it turns out, he didn’t need more metrics; he needed a fresh pair of eyes.


    Humans are creatures of habit, and more often than not, getting a fresh perspective will help us overcome the challenges that keep our business stagnant. Make use of the people around you; whether it’s a jacked-up marketing team or the gardener, getting a new insight just might bring your business plan full-circle and let you move from mining data to executing your next big idea.


    Stop Waiting for the Perfect Moment

    “On important decisions, one rarely has 100 percent of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.”


    – Robert K. Greenleaf, Author of “Essentials of Servant Leadership”


    The purpose of gathering data is to develop an educated – and not a flawless – plan of action. If you approach data analysis with the hopes that a perfect plan will jump off the page, then you’re kidding yourself. Numbers can be overwhelming, and for every figure that shouts, “JUST DO IT!” there are three others that seem to say the opposite.


    Just remember: If you see a flourishing business, it only got there because somebody was willing to take the plunge and make a courageous decision.


    Trust Your Gut

    If you take anything away from this, it is that you should trust your gut instinct and intelligence instead of relying on the numbers to determine your success. Fortunes have been won on the whim of reflex decisions, and just as many have been lost because people ignore their intuition.


    Now, don’t be reckless; always consider what the numbers are telling you. But when they start screaming – or when your gut says, “It’s time to execute” – put down the analytics tools and show the world why you became an entrepreneur in the first place.

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