What’s the opposite of “analysis paralysis”?

I was discussing something with Alan today and during the conversation he said something like:

Well, you don’t want to get stuck in analysis paralysis but you don’t want to go to the other extreme either.

So, I though to myself, “What is the other extreme? Does it have a name?”

We all know that “analysis paralysis” is the state where one cannot make a decision because they get stuck trying to figure out all the possibilities. I’ve seen it happen in people a few times, and it can be painful to watch, as they hum and ha and try to figure out what is the right decision.

On the other end of the scale are those situations where a decision is made by someone with little or no debate, research or analysis, and the person is convinced this is the only, or possibly the best of all options. This to me is the opposite of analysis paralysis.

I call this state “utopia myopia“.

Essentially, a very limited perspective is used to achieve a theoretically ideal outcome, ignoring other perspectives or outcomes. This is very common when discussing new product ideas or solutions to problems. There is always a small number of people or sometimes a sole individual in the group who has a very strong opinion of what to build and why, and will not change their view, nor will they agree that additional research or investigation is needed before a final decision is made.

I once worked for a company where the CEO had a real disdain for market research and said at a planning meeting:

There’s no value in doing research. By the time you do your research, you could already have finished building the product.

Needless to say, that company was not very successful at all.

So, that’s my contribution to the English language this week. Use the phrase if it applies. For example, if someone is stuck on some idea and won’t budge. say:

You know what, you’re suffering from utopia myopia, and you really need to broaden your perspecitves.

Watch how they react, and drop me a line and let me know what kind of response you are getting when using this phrase.



4 responses to “What’s the opposite of “analysis paralysis”?

  1. Here’s my favorite CEO quote:

    “You have facts and figures. But I have instinct.”

    It’s always comforting to hear that the capabilities of animals lower in the evolutionary chain can trump a few millennia of human civilization.

  2. Tom,

    Thanks for the comment. Facts and figures are necessary. Instinct (or much better, experience) is necessary, but neither on their own are sufficient. One needs to find a place between analysis paralysis and utopia myopia where facts/figures/data along with experience/instinct can optimize actions.

    I often use the phrase: “We’re here to make decisions not calculations.” when encountering people who need more and more data.

    On the flip side, the phrase: “We need decisions, not wild guesses” can be often applied as well.


  3. I believe that different approaches are required based on the type of company and the type of product. A ‘fail fast’ strategy can yield very powerful results in an environment where you can iterate quickly. This typically works best in a B2C world. In a B2B scenario the investment in products tends to be larger and the access to data more accessible, so a more formulated approach is prudent.

    Ultimately it’s a PM’s job to understand their company’s situation and make a case by case decision based on the nature of what the company is trying to deliver.

  4. Facts are great – but if you don’t know where to start testing or measuring, you’re not going to get far.

    Last year, I was working with a customer who was conducting usability testing on a new product prototype. As the test subjects were clicking through the prototype, several of them INDEPENDENTLY broached some really interesting insights into their offline behavior relating to this product. I was frantically scribbling down notes, thinking how this would drive some great differentating feature development for the customer.

    When I got the “formal writeup” usability test results back, there was no mention of the offline behavior conversations. Why? Because it wasn’t on their original test script, and therefore, “not scientific”. Myopia utopia at its finest!