Analysis Paralysis

This is day 5 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

When we’re presented with too much data or too many options, many times we get paralyzed by the analysis that we can do with all of this information. It then takes way too long to come to a decision.

For instance, a little while ago I bought a new set of earphones. A search for “earphones” on Amazon gave me something like 7 or 8 categories to choose from, and within each category there were thousands of options.

I then looked through the ratings, scanned the prices, and assessed how the products looked. If I saw something I liked, I would click on the product and dig into the reviews and specifications.

I would then copy and paste the info of a few products into a Google spreadsheet and add some notes so I can run my own head-to-head comparison.

I wound up buying a $20 set of JVC earbuds. And I spent almost a week analyzing this purchase.

The earbuds are great, but making a $20 decision shouldn’t take a week of my time.

Yesterday, my colleagues and I were selecting standing desks for our new office. We were on EvoDesks’s website and were going through all of the options that they offered. Should we get the straight or beveled edge? Add casters? Will a keyboard tray be more comfortable? What color desktop and legs should we get? Monitor arms would be cool, right?

It’s a desk, for Christ’s sake.

I know this happens to businesses all the time. They pore through giga- or terabytes of data on their customers and their purchase habits to attempt to deliver promotions to the right people at the right price at the right time. They may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to perform this analysis and may take months to come to a decision.

Sometimes this works. Other times this analysis paralysis slows down the company and many times they get it totally wrong.

I’m not saying that being thorough when making decisions is a bad thing. Thinking through your decisions is certainly important.

But understanding the cost-benefit of spending lots of time on making your decision may be just as, if not more, important.

Think about the impact that your decision will have and spend the commensurate amount of time on making it. Do your analysis, but don’t let it paralyze you. Then make a decision with confidence.