Too Much Analysis Leads to Paralysis

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One of my favourite bloggers is the English economist John Kay. His blog is erudite, pithy and always worth the read. Today’s post about Why Rorty’s search for what works has lessons for business is important for all those of us who place too much emphasis on analytics and the supposed insights they generate. You know who you are. Or at least you should.

The world is a very complicated and complex place. And it is getting more so. No matter how much data you think you have you only have a tiny percentage of the data you really need. No matter how many tools you have they are still crude in their explanatory power. And even if you had all the data, and the tools, the complex adaptive nature of business means you can’t really forecast accurately very far forward using them. Just like tomorrow’s weather. All you can realistically do is identify general trends and think through what that might mean.

If a CEO, a consultant (like me) or a business ‘gurus’ (like me too!) pretends that he knows the future and he can guide you through it. Give him a wide berth; he is either lying or he doesn’t really understand.

Instead of relying on soothsayers, take a page from Toyota’s book and go to the source of value creation for your business (Genchi Genbutsu), get to understand what drives the key players in your business, do look at market trends and think about what they might mean for your business and above all, try things out locally to see what really works then react to improve the results. It is far better to actively shape the future in this way than to attempt to predict it.

What do you think? Is your organisation crawling with those who think they can see the future? Or are you busy shaping it?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

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