In a darkened arena with a spotlight on a fighting ring in the middle, the crowd hushes as an announcer walks to the middle of the ring and announces the next battle.
“In this corner…” — his voice echoes through the arena — “… we have the analytes.”
The analytes can’t move without the numbers. They study. They research. In their world, answers are there for the taking, if you just do the numbers hard enough. You resolve uncertainty by looking harder at the data. Every problem has an answer. There is no uncertainty that can’t be resolved by further research. Their critics call it paralysis by analysis.
“And in this corner,” the echoing voice announces, “we have the justdoers.”
The justdoers trust hunches. They want action. For them, it’s all just guessing, so let’s take our best guess and get moving. They don’t worry so much about uncertainty because it’s all uncertainty, and the answer is to guess.
The justdoers drive the analytes crazy. “Come on,” they shout, “what are you waiting for? We’re going to miss the market. Let’s go.”
And the analytes drive the justdoers crazy. “That’s irresponsible,” they say, “we haven’t done the research.”
And, unfortunately, never the twain shall meet. I think the happy medium is somewhere in between. Especially with entrepreneurship and small business, I think you have to remind yourself to slow down and educate those guesses … and that you can’t ever study enough to eliminate uncertainty. The past doesn’t predict the future.
This difference in style is really significant. Each of the extremes makes the other extreme very, very nervous. We have the paralyzed vs. the loose cannons.
I’d like to think there’s a medium range in between the two extremes, where people understand that they are guessing, so they educate their guesses with practical research wherever possible, but they take only the right amount of time before taking their best guess and moving forward.
And I’d like to think I’m close to the medium, because I like to absorb the data before I discount it in favor of common sense. I hope the data affects my decisions, but only in a non-specific osmosis sort of way. And when in doubt, I know that it’s all uncertainty, so we might as well get moving.
Where are you on this scale? Where are your key cohorts? Are you compatible? What do you think: should everybody be the same on this scale, or is it better for a team if it includes a mix?
For me, key to understanding this issue is that the middle part of the spectrum is not a stable point. It’s a question of constantly balancing between the two extremes. I naturally tend towards the analytical side of the spectrum. Especially when I dive into new areas, which involves a lot of learning, do I move to the analytical side.
I have several strategies to deal with this. One is absolutely to pair up with a “just-do-it” person, or a person which is thoroughly unimpressed by my analysis and pressed for time. Another technique is to set very clear goals before I start the actual analysis. Defining exactly which numbers are needed for a business plan for example, can help me avoid spending/wasting half a day investigating 200 different models of sprayer-tractors when all I need is a general price for an asset account.
As always, knowing yourself is key to overcoming the obstacle, and maintaining the ideal balance. Know thyself and plan thine labor… or something like that.
Fantastic summary of both extremes!
The justdoers may have more common sense and experience so they need less analysis and research to know they are on the right track. Some analysis is good but many are stuck in analysis paralysis far too long.
From someone who is in the beginning of a start-up and who just recently interviewed at a well known software company, I can say there is a lot of paralysis by analysis going on in the tech world.
Analytics are very important and crucial but when I see that it is all that is used, it makes me cringe. You could never gather emotion form the data on how your product is being used as much as you can by watching it being used.
There is definitely a marriage between just doing and analyzing, who has the upper hand in that marriage…I’m not sure. 🙂
Love this Tim! Yep, I am definitely a JustDoEr. Has caused me to make a few missteps over time, but worked well for the most part.
Mr. Tim Berry
Saw your Twit on this blog today and decided to read it. (Good decision on my part). Anyhow here are disjoined comments, as they apply to me.
First of all I’m a 75% Analyze it kind of person (Who would of guess coming from a software company ) but like someone with an addition issue (Side note I think all of us have addition issues for some people the issues are more self or other destructive then others ) the fact that I recognize I’m far into the Analyze range, I can (sometimes at least) stop myself from going into “paralysis by analysis”.
IMO The more important/costly (in money, time, customer good will etc.) something is the more Analyze effort there should be. On the other hand going with one’s gut when it is low cost, or no time is also OK.
“the answer is to guess” But is also needs to be matched with watching what happens and adjust (A new guess?) when the first guess is not working out. Of course if the first guess is working out, decided if ‘doubling down’ is appropriate.
“The past doesn’t predict the future.” Vs. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana)
“That’s irresponsible,” they say, “we haven’t done the research.” Vs. “That’s irresponsible,” they say, “we haven’t done anything to solve the issue.”
What do you think: should everybody be the same on this scale, or is it better for a team if it includes a mix? I go for the mix, but the people in the mix must realize that there is a difference and BENEFIT from the difference not make it a negative.
I do the research, but I’m flexible in what that research entails. It might be traditional academic style plowing through literature and sources or it could be talking to people who have knowledge of the subject. It could be a combination of those and it might involve experimentation based on the other research.
There are times when I recognize that something must be done quickly and my slow and methodical approach won’t work. I’m okay with that, too. I don’t mind getting the ball rolling while the research is underway, as long as I have confidence the questions will be answered appropriately before catastrophe ensues.
P.S. Your use of the word analyte perplexes me. I haven’t heard that term since college chemistry and it seems out of place or possibly misused here. It could have another meaning or context I don’t know.