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Gil Laroya Headshot

The Problem of Analysis Paralysis in Business

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I will be the first to admit that I cannot stand analysis paralysis -- that habit of digging into every bit of minutia to the point where the company is at a stand still.

People wait for results, while scientists bounce theoretical concepts back and forth, burning through whiteboard pens with aplomb. In my mind, analysis paralysis is nothing short of insecurity. Like a child scared to blurt out an answer in school, this insecurity becomes the fear of being wrong, the fear of being punished for being wrong, or the uncertainty that comes with just building something to see what happens.

I come from a career lineage of inventors and enablers. I learned from some of the best R&D engineers in the medical device industry. None of these individuals were PhDs (no surprise there), and in fact some of them were non-degreed engineers. The commonality of these people is that they looked at R&D as a process, not a theory. This process involved actually doing something -- an empirical paradigm which is not unlike that of a kid who sticks hid finger in a light socket to see if it hurts. This drive to understand has been a part of human beings since the dawn of cavemen.

What totally screws this up is the ego of human beings to try and decipher everything in the universe. As interesting as the idea sounds, business does not run on the same clock as university research. In business you do not have years of time nor unlimited funds to learn if something works. And if you happen to be in a start up, both time and money are in even shorter supply.

At some point, you just have to do something.

Like the old saying, you eventually have to "fish or cut bait". The decision to actually do something physical or to build something tactile actually scares a lot of people -- people who were taught to always be right, people who were never shown how to look good while being wrong, people who just cannot handle the stress of making a mistake. Analysis paralysis becomes the comfort zone for these people, and it brings many companies, startups included, down to a droning crawl.

I recently read an article that talked about using laser-like focus to deal with parallel paths. I think that is just wrong. Focus becomes a set of blinders, that limits our ability as human beings to be creative in solving problems. Focus is the antitheses of innovation and creativity. Focus is one of the drivers of analysis paralysis. Period.

Humans are completely capable of multitasking, and of empirical research & development. We have been bred to be curious animals, and to physically test the world around us. Why people get the urge to analyze problems until the cows come home is beyond me. Businesses need to drive towards active innovation instead of relying on analysis and theory. Scientists need to be more tactile, and less concerned about being wrong.

... because sticking your finger in a light socket teaches you a whole lot more than any formula ever will...