Analysis paralysis


Analysis paralysis

The term "analysis paralysis" or "paralysis of analysis" refers to over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or "perfect" solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.

The phrase describes a situation where the opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits that could be gained by enacting some decision, or an informal or non-deterministic situation where the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision. The phrase applies to any situation where analysis may be applied to help make a decision and may be a dysfunctional element of organizational behavior. This is often phrased as paralysis by analysis, in contrast to extinct by instinct (making a fatal decision based on hasty judgment or a gut-reaction).

Contents

History

The basic idea has been expressed though narrative a number of times. In one "Aesop's fable" that is recorded even before Aesop's time, The Fox and the Cat, the fox boasts of "hundreds of ways of escaping" while the cat has "only one". When they hear the hounds approaching, the cat scampers up a tree while "the fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds." The fable ends with the moral, "Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon."

The principles were also expressed in a poem attributed to Mrs. Edmund Craster, which appeared in an 1871 edition of Cassell's Weekly magazine:

"The centipede was happy, quite Until the Toad in fun Said, "Pray which leg goes after which?" And worked her mind to such a pitch, She lay distracted in the ditch Considering how to run."

In The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the main character, Prince Hamlet, is often said to have a mortal flaw of thinking too much, such that his youth and vital energy are, in Shakespeare's words, "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."

Software development

In software development, analysis paralysis typically manifests itself through exceedingly long phases of project planning, requirements gathering, program design and data modeling, with little or no extra value created by those steps. When extended over too long a timeframe, such processes tend to emphasize the organizational (i.e., bureaucratic) aspect of the software project, while detracting from its functional (value-creating) portion.

Analysis paralysis often occurs due to the lack of experience on the part of business systems analysts, project managers or software developers, as well as a rigid and formal organizational culture.

Analysis paralysis is an example of an anti-pattern. Agile software development methodologies explicitly seek to prevent analysis paralysis by promoting an iterative work cycle that emphasizes working products over product specifications.

Workplace

Analysis paralysis can be used to describe the way that information affects workplace productivity. An overload of physical mail, email, internet websites, voicemails, instant messaging, telephone and cellphone calls, memos, faxes, and interpersonal communication can make it difficult or impossible for employees to make decisions.

Sports

Analysis paralysis is a critical problem in athletics. It can be explained in simple terms as "failure to react in response to over-thought." A victim of sporting analysis paralysis will frequently think in complicated terms of "what to do next" while contemplating the variety of possibilities, and in doing so exhausts the available time in which to act.

Casual analysis paralysis

There are additional situations in which analysis paralysis can be identified, but in which the phenomenon is often accidental or coincidental.

Personal analysis

Casual analysis paralysis can occur during the process of trying to make personal decisions if the decision-maker overanalyzes the circumstance with which they are faced. When this happens, the sheer volume of analysis overwhelms the decision-maker, weighing him or her down so much they feel overwhelmed with the task and is thus unable to come to a rational conclusion. Such a circumstance is more formally known as cognitive distortion.

Conversational analysis

Although analysis paralysis can actually occur at any time, regarding any issue in typical conversation, it is particularly likely to occur during elevated, intellectual discussions. During such intellectual discussion, analysis paralysis involves the over-analysis of a specific issue to the point where that issue can no longer be recognized, and the subject of the conversation is lost. Usually, this happens because complex issues (which are often the basis of elevated, intellectual conversation) are intricately connected with various other issues, and the pursuit of these various issues makes logical sense to the participants. Below is an example of how analysis paralysis might affect a conversation about human rights:

  1. Human rights
  2. China's one child policy
  3. Female infanticide
  4. Moral implications
  5. Individual versus the common good

All of these issues are closely related and each issue brings up yet another related one. The assumption is that, eventually, the analysis will move on so far astray that the initial issue of human rights becomes a sub-issue or is no longer even recognizable to the current topic under discussion.

Often, analysis paralysis is unavoidable and in some cases even desirable; the exploration of related issues can often lead to a solution (if a true solution is ever possible in such conversations) of the main issue at hand.

Board games

In board games, analysis paralysis denotes a state where a player is so overwhelmed by the decision tree that he or she faces that the player's turn takes an inordinate amount of time. The connotation is often pejorative, implying that the slowing of the game diminished the enjoyment by other players. In chess this is referred to as Kotov Syndrome.

See also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Analysis paralysis — En computación, el antipatrón de diseño Análisis Parálisis(en inglés analysis paralysis) ocurre cuando un analista o un grupo de ellos pretende develar y modelar todos los detalles de un problema, en el desarrollo de un sistema informático, en… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • analysis paralysis — noun The condition of being unable to make a decision due to the availability of too much information which must be processed in order for the decision to be made …   Wiktionary

  • Decision analysis — (DA) is the discipline comprising the philosophy, theory, methodology, and professional practice necessary to address important decisions in a formal manner. Decision analysis includes many procedures, methods, and tools for identifying, clearly… …   Wikipedia

  • Decision Analysis - DA — A systematic, quantitative and visual approach to addressing and evaluating important choices confronted by businesses. Decision analysis utilizes a variety of tools to evaluate all relevant information to aid in the decision making process. A… …   Investment dictionary

  • Cricket paralysis virus — (CrPV) was initially discovered in Australian field crickets (Teleogryllus commodus and T. oceanicus) by Carl Reinganum and his colleagues at the Victorian Plant Research Institute (Burnley, Melbourne, Australia). The paralytic disease spread… …   Wikipedia

  • Gait analysis — is the study of animal locomotion, including locomotion of humans. Gait analysis is commonly used to help athletes run more efficiently and to identify posture related or movement related problems in people with injuries. The study encompasses… …   Wikipedia

  • Strategic management — is a field that deals with the major intended and emergent initiatives taken by general managers on behalf of owners, involving utilization of resources, to enhance the performance of firms in their external environments.[1] It entails specifying… …   Wikipedia

  • ICONIX — is a software development methodology which predates both the Rational Unified Process (RUP), Extreme Programming(XP) and Agile software development. Like RUP, the ICONIX process is UML Use Case driven but more lightweight than RUP. Unlike the XP …   Wikipedia

  • Decision theory — in economics, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, and statistics is concerned with identifying the values, uncertainties and other issues relevant in a given decision, its rationality, and the resulting optimal decision. It is closely related to …   Wikipedia

  • Restoration of the Everglades — The restoration of the Everglades is an ongoing effort to remedy damage inflicted on the environment of southern Florida during the 20th century. As of 2008, it is the most expensive and comprehensive environmental repair attempt in history.… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.