Analysis Paralysis

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Anthony Pica
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Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

I've always admired the effortlessness of the expert pianist.

As their hands glide fluidly from side to side, each finger knows when to press a black or white key. It appears that the arms, hands, and fingers are independently and automatically acting on their own accord—yet they are totally in sync.

To the spectator, the performance seems effortless. But it is the thousands of hours of repetition and practice that enable experts to achieve unconscious competence, the point where skill becomes automatic.- Like talented musicians, strong leaders are decisive. They identify patterns and trade-offs based on prior experiences. Like the expert pianist, their minds can operate on intuition as they process information quickly. They are willing to take chances.- "The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision," wrote the Jewish philosopher Maimonides circa 1300.

But even the most seasoned leaders can sometimes fall into the trap of overthinking.

Katherine Craster's 1871 poem illustrates analysis paralysis:

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg comes after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.

The causes of analysis paralysis are plenty: Fear of failure. Missing information. Lack of buy-in from others. Anxiety from uncertain consequences. Too many options. Seeking a perfect solution.

Understand that it is okay to not have all the answers all the time. It is sensible to take a step back from the details to see the bigger picture. Patience can be rewarding.

But at the same time, it is important to keep moving without being bogged down by self-doubt and perfectionism.

Decision-making is a skill that can be nurtured.

How can we accelerate the skill-building process and reach expert-pianist-like levels of intuition?

  • Read more. Mentorship is not limited by space or time.
  • Practice. Increase exposure to new projects, collaborating with diverse thinkers.
  • Build mental models. Pattern recognition in one area can be applied to others.
  • Fail fast. Embrace being wrong, because it means you've learned something.

It is effective to journal about past decisions, how they were made and why. I believe the more we read and write and reflect on past experiences, the less susceptible we'll be to analysis paralysis in the future.

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