Fear works two-fold when it comes to data. Fear, and the subsequent paralysis it causes, can arise from having: a) a lack of data, or b) too much data. Whichever it is, they both result in the same outcome: you become paralysed, decide not to act, or end up leaping into a decision.
If you have a lack of data, this can mean decision makers have questions that they simply cannot answer. They know the question is important but they are left to make a blind choice: effectively flipping a coin. You might be able to pull that off once or twice, but imagine a roulette table. Eventually the house is going to win.
On the flip-side the same situation arises when you have data overload. Picture a computer when it freezes. It is overloaded by the task at hand and simply refuses to work. It has reached it’s limit. Human beings are no different. They are going to focus, or they are going to crash.
If they are given a whole table of data or insights and are unable to ascertain what it is exactly they need to do, or where to focus, they could very well arrive at the same action as having no data or insights: effectively ending up back on the roulette wheel.
Tips On Combating The Fear
1. Focus On What You Need
If you are faced with a mammoth decision, and you are not sure how to break it down, try to focus on what you really need. Ask yourself ‘what is the real problem here?’
Is this about survival and just managing cash flow until the big invoice comes? Is it about how to position the business for sale over the next 12 months? Is it knowing if next month, or next quarter, will be good, bad or indifferent?
By pinpointing the need you allow yourself to cut out the noise. There is so much data and infinite ways to analyse it. But you have a decision to make and limited time to make it in. Think about what you really need to know, and this will focus all other efforts.
2. Eyes On The Prize!
If you ever feel a decision is becoming overwhelming stop, take a step back, and remember to think about where you are heading. Go back to 30,000 feet and remember where you want this business/ project to be.
Focus on ‘why’ over ‘how’. If you can become clear on the ‘why’, your specialists will look after the ‘how’.
3. Go Easy On Yourself
You are only human. We ALL make mistakes (admittedly some sillier than others). Endeavour to do the most you can with the resources you have at the very least you can always justify your decision. Even if your decision is a mistake, we are all always learning. Seek to make new mistakes, over repetition of old ones.