Research…or analysis paralysis?

I have written previously about some issues of work/life balance for people working at home during the pandemic. As a coach I always encourage self-reflection as part of the learning and adapting process and clients who treat this seriously, are often the ones who make the greatest strides in a shorter period of time. However, I have noticed on occasions, a side effect of spending more time working from home, which appears to lead to an imbalance in the amount of time which has been spent on research and reading around the subject. For some, the apparently reduced time constraints compared to a busy office, has meant that they are able to spend hours googling and reading, in the hope of getting ever more recent ideas and the latest theory. With some clients this can lead to a level of almost paralysis and feed concerns and self-doubt about their own knowledge and skill. With others in a leadership position, there can be a danger of constantly seeking the ‘next right thing’, with a result that some of their staff may be left wondering what they are supposed to do to try to keep up, or at worst, ignoring the idea completely, knowing that another one will be along next week.
All of us as professionals have a duty to constantly question, to refresh our knowledge and to make sure that we are as up to date as possible with current thinking. However, there is also merit in having some faith in proven ideas and processes which have worked well in the past or trusting your own skills and judgment. A couple of examples…
A very well-read CEO was extremely knowledgeable about leadership and management best practices and had a great deal of self-awareness for good measure. His blind spot, however, was his prodigious consumption of leadership and management books, talks, webinars and blogs…to the extent that I began to question my own ability to add value to him through my coaching and mentoring. He ‘butterflied’ from one to the other and felt unable to settle on some basic principles or methodology which were right for his current business and current circumstances. With his anxiety levels rising he was in danger of losing his ability to lead effectively altogether. As I have suggested previously, a return to some basic values was important. But it was as important to help him settle on a management paradigm appropriate for his company at the time….and then to be consistent in how he communicated that to staff and how he implemented it across the company. He has not stopped reading or researching, but he asks himself some key questions first. ‘What is the problem with what I am doing now?’ ‘Is the new idea significantly better than what I am doing?’ ‘What will be the impact on my staff (of making a change)?’ He is still inquisitive and keen to learn, but his anxiety levels have reduced, and he is more able to focus on key outcomes for the business and driving it forward.
A freelance worker found herself overcome with anxiety that the proposals and ideas she was putting forward were simply not the best and that there must be people out there who were doing it right. The amount of time she spent researching alternatives meant that she started to miss deadlines. Breaking this habit came as a result of focusing on her own abilities using objective evidence as the key. In this instance it focused on the work she has completed and the actual feedback from clients who have re-engaged her for subsequent projects. We spent time developing an appropriate balance between the need for her, a professionally isolated individual, to research and the need to deliver proposals to the client.
So, what is the essential learning in all this? Inquisitiveness, research and learning are all fundamental to individuals and organisations which are forward-thinking, dynamic and ultimately successful. However, there is also a place for trust in those methods and practices which have served you well in the past…and an objective look at your own achievements. In the end it is all about balance and not silver bullets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *