Action Beats Analysis Every Time

I’ve been meaning to get to this topic for a few weeks now. My schedule hasn’t permitted it. I know that oft-quoted phrase comes to mind.. “Want something done, ask a busy person.”

In my case, however, I exceeded my bandwidth (bandwidth: a fancy term for how much work I can get done in the time allotted) over the past couple of weeks. However, I think that is probably a good thing. I’ve had to take a look at what I am working on and evaluate my commitments and focus.

Why you should act quicker and spend less time “thinking”

This blog post is largely written for a friend. They know who they are… but it applies to a lot of people I know in the midst of trying to grow their career, their business, or embark on any journey that involves accomplishing something.

It is based on the following truism. Something I repeat often.


Or as my father told me,

My friend has introduced me to a number of ideas that he/she has for business. At this point, I’ve become mostly numb to the ideas. Not because they aren’t good ideas, I think many/most of them are. I’ve simply taken to asking the following question.

“What is your next step?”

It is at this point, the conversation moves into a need to run numbers and analyze the market and… and… and…

“Cool! Let me know when that’s done.”

In the past 6 or 7 years, it is never done.

On many occasions I’ve told them they need to act – get something/anything moving and then adjust it from there. Their concern/concept is that spending a little more time analyzing and planning will provide a greater chance of success.

I disagree. I believe that such analysis precludes the acquisition of true knowledge and analysis; knowledge and analysis gained only through action.

So I’ll explain the numbers and provide a graphic that represents my thinking on the idea.

We’re smarter than we think

I believe we get about 70-90% of the way to an idea and the necessary action almost immediately.

The net add by taking twice as much time to analyze an idea or opportunity does not result in doubling our knowledge or accuracy about what action we should take. In fact, I would, unscientifically, gauge the increase in knowledge to be less than 10% more.

The real learning occurs during the implementation

The problem with over-analysis is that regardless of all the analysis and models we might create, the real learning about our ideas and their implementation, come during the implementation.

In fact, entire business plans, ideas, marketing direction, and focus comes not from the pre-action analysis but in seeing our plans put into play in the market. For example, we discover that while we were focusing on providing clients “X” service that what they ended up wanting was “Y” and we adjust accordingly.

Businesses and produces have been redefined in this way. I would suggest that while our initial brainstorming of ideas gets us 70-90% of the way to as good an action plan as we are going to get, that the analysis that comes during initial implementation will actually result in another 70-90% leap in knowledge. By putting off action for extended analysis, we end up pushing back our real learning – a doubling or more of our knowledge for a 5% gain of mostly theoretic knowledge.

Truth is, I feel those numbers are conservative. I believe action results in the true idea and that the initial analysis was a guess.

Faster action begets faster action

I also believe that faster analysis to action is a trait or skill that develops as you do it more. Meaning, if you have never really acted on an idea quickly, it is likely that your initial idea is only 70% developed as opposed to 80-90% developed. People who frequently analyze and act quickly are more likely to be better at rapid analysis – creating better/more complete plans.

But in the end, it DOES NOT MATTER!

If someone only takes their idea to 70% readiness before acting and then acts, learns, and adjust – taking their idea 70% further down the road, they are still better off than spending double the time analyzing the idea to take it to 80% of readiness. Because, as I’ve suggested above, the 70% or 80% is mostly meaningless. Their real learning, the validity and adjustments to the idea, are going to occur during that initial implementation.

To represent this in timeframe, let’s say that an initial idea is developed over a 4 week period. And let’s say the idea is at somewhere around 70% readiness. Taking another 4 weeks of analysis and action might get it to 75-80% readiness.

Then, upon action, the real learning begins. As ideas are implemented, the idea changes nearly 70% in the first 4 weeks of action.

This 70% change/growth of knowledge would have occurred in the 4 weeks following the initial idea; that the additional 5-10% gained in the 2nd four weeks of analysis provided little to no true value.

All it did was hinder the growth of ideas that occurred during the actual implementation. The extra analysis time was, in fact, a hindrance to the idea moving forward.

The truth is much worse

But here is the real kicker. From what I’ve seen of those who spend more time in analysis than action, the numbers are far worse.

Typically, the idea for a business is created in a 2-4 week period of time. The after/extra analysis occurs over a 2-6 month period of time – without any true action. And I believe that net knowledge gained over that 2-6 months is probably less than 10% greater than the knowledge they had after 2-4 weeks.

Furthermore, it is meaningless knowledge because within 2-4 weeks of implementing an idea, they will have developed 70-90% of new and adjusted knowledge. Knowledge and analysis that CAN NEVER be discovered with analysis alone.

The analysis done during action – during implementation – is the real analysis that proves and develops the idea.

A visual representation of action over analysis

The following two graphics show the development of knowledge during action versus simply analysis and planning alone.

This is my experience and is what I see and have read about as the experience of other entrepreneurs.

Graphic 1 shows a longer time of analysis, the knowledge gained, and then what occurs during action.

Graphic 2 shows a shorter time of analysis and much greater knowledge gained due to a more rapid start of action.

Again.. I’m not pointing to some scientific study of this.. this is what I’ve experienced and it is the experience of those entrepreneurs and careerist I’ve seen make the greatest strides forward in their professional life… or their hobby for  that matter.

Posted in Blog, Career, Coaching.

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