Friday, 26 March 2010

Avoid Analysis-Paralysis: Why Too Much Analysis Can Kill A Good Business Idea

One frustration in business is that everything has to be over-analysed and measured to the nth degree. Businesses are obsessed with metrics: data, strategic plans, financial forecasts, analytics. There was a great session at SXSW called ‘Is Too Much Math Killing Marketing?’ where Mike Teasdale of Harvest Digital argued that some things are easier to measure than others, and too much analysis can kill creativity. I share the same view about too much analysis killing great business ideas.

So I was very interested to discover Jeff Stibel’s post on The Harvard Business Review called “Why Wise Leaders Don't Know Too Much”. Jeff is an entrepreneur, brain scientist and author. He argues that whilst knowledge is – of course – a good thing, there is a limit to what we can digest and understand and that too much knowledge undermines the greatest insights. Here’s some edited extracts from his article:

“The more information you pile on, the less likely you are to make educated guesses. But educated guesses spring from wisdom: all of your past experiences, knowledge and knowhow, coupled with the most recent information and analysis. In other words, wisdom comes from your gut”
“…. faced with an abundance of information you fall victim to analysis paralysis — unable to make any decisions in the face of so much data. To be frozen by information is perhaps the single biggest risk of knowledge. Ancient Greek philosophers used to warn their children about this ailment and Peter Drucker did a good job of combating it in the business world. But is anyone really listening? People often become victims of the "knowledge trap" or "analysis paralysis," thinking they need to weigh every bit of information against all possible outcomes. Those people rarely make it very far. Those who avoid these traps — who realize they'll never have all the answers no matter how much knowledge they gather — are often the ones who succeed.”

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