Bias for action

Posted on February 13, 2023.
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Photo by Vlad Chețan on

You’ve heard of analysis paralysis. Perhaps you’ve been in a meeting that’s gone round and round about a topic without reaching an actionable conclusion. Maybe you work in an industry or organization that ensures everything is “in order” before moving forward with any next step. While there’s always something to be said for caution and deliberate decision making, spending too much time on these activities can cost you a customer, your competitive advantage or a market opportunity. 

Activity trumps debate 

Before you rip me to shreds in the comments, I wholeheartedly believe in healthy, inclusive, psychologically safe debate. However, if after all of that you’re still not able to move forward you must discard the debate and take action. Here’s why. 

The inability to decide on a next step usually means the team doesn’t have enough information to make the decision. Taking action – running an experiment, talking to customers, shipping an a/b test – puts something in the world for your customers to react to. Those reactions are information. They help your team learn. 

Do that a couple more times and you start to collect data. That data can now better inform the decisions you were trying to make in your meetings and circular debates. Your team’s confidence levels are higher. They understand the problem and solution space more completely. The decisions they make now will not only be faster but of higher quality. They stand a much better chance of being right. 

Making decisions means making progress

When a team is able to make informed decisions, they put more ideas into the world. These ideas become features that will, inevitably, deliver value to customers. This is progress. The analysis paralysis has been broken. The best part is that the very act of breaking the indecision and putting something into the world based on an informed decision leads to more learning and data. This then leads to even better and faster decisions. It’s a virtuous cycle that ensures that at all times your teams are shipping, sensing and responding. 

If you find yourself in a deadlock over how to proceed, bias for action. The effort will be minimal but the unblocking of the team will be infinitely impactful. 

If you found this inspiring, here’s a tweet-length version of this blog post.