Startups | 2 min read

Action vs indecision


Tough decisions are a signature of any startup. Whether it’s choosing who to hire, what to build, or how to market your product.

These decisions have a very definite cost – you’re pitting two or more choices against each other; there always has to be a winning and losing proposition. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance can be to make no decision at all.

You’re probably familiar with the following scene: eight people in a room endlessly debating over a whiteboard, weighing up one decision over the next, but with little sign of progress being made. Everyone knows tough decisions take time. But if every single decision at your company is agonized over, with no progress to show for it, alarm bells should be ringing.

Indecision can be damaging to any company, but even more so to young ones. At best, it’s an opportunity cost. For every eight hours of indecision, you’re trading eight hours of productivity – hours you could spend actually executing one of the options you’re agonizing over.

At worst, indecision can lead to analysis paralysis. People can end up frozen by indecision, which creates a willingness to abdicate responsibility. There are hundreds of ways to say “let’s wait until…”. But you can’t always wait for the perfect conditions to set your course.

Great companies are rarely built one indecisive step at a time. Startups especially aren’t designed to tread water. Most of your time should be spent doing, not choosing. I can’t think of a single better way to spend a couple of hours that has more impact than making a decision, sticking to it, and coming up with a few ways to execute it.

You can think and debate about a decision all day long. Or you can try stuff out and see what works. Don’t worry if a few ideas fail. It can take a large wastebasket in order to produce a few good ones.

Credit: Image based on XKCD