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Definition

analysis paralysis

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Analysis paralysis is a stagnation point that can occur in a decision-making process when stakeholders become over-involved in researching and evaluating options. When analysis continues beyond what is warranted for a given decision, the consequences can include wasted resources, reduced productivity, lost opportunities and failed projects.

Experts offer a number of tactics for avoiding or dealing with analysis paralysis, such as:

  • Limit the options. In researching product options, for example, start by identifying must-have features and eliminate options that lack them.
  • Evaluate the importance of a decision and set a realistic deadline accordingly.
  • Abandon perfectionism and adopt the idea that meeting requirements is adequate – accept that finding the absolute best solution is usually not necessary to get the job done.
  • Ensure that all those involved in analysis and the decision-making process are on the same page as to the crucial elements, the importance of the decision and the deadline for making it.

Barry Schwartz wrote about "paralysis" as a potential consequence of having too many options in his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. Rather than facilitating optimal decisions and satisfaction, as might be expected, Schwartz maintained that an abundance of options can actually lead to anxiety, indecision, paralysis and dissatisfaction.

The opposite approach can also be problematic, however. When people want to avoid the negative psychological effects of difficult decisions, they sometimes veer into over-impulsiveness, making snap decisions and settling on an option before sufficient thought has gone into the decision.

This was last updated in January 2019

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