Bias for action

Bias for action

Decision-making is never an easy exercise.  Some focus so intensively on the possible outcomes and delay action without realizing that it doesn't generate additional value.  I believe it is important to have a focus on timely action.  I was reminded about the idea of ‘bias for action’ from a quote by Indira Gandhi, the first lady Prime Minister of India.  She once literally said: “Have a bias toward action.  Let’s see something happen now.  You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away”.  

In today’s fast changing business environment, ‘bias for action’ is a key contributor to individual or organisational success.  Essentially it means: when you have a choice, you should choose action over inaction.  So do not spend too much time hypothesizing, scenario playing or debating.  Do not wait too long for inspiration to strike you.  Just act.  Do what you can, when you can.  Woody Allen famously said “80% of success is just showing up”.  I couldn't agree more.

A bias for action simply means that taking action should be your default state.  Over-thinking or over-analysing can lead to becoming ‘paralyzed’.  Sometimes we seek an optimal solution, but we search too long and we don’t take a decision because we fear the consequences of an error.  In a business context, that paralysis can become a deal breaker in time-sensitive or critical situations, where a decision needs to be reached timely but the person concerned is unable to respond fast enough.  

The words of Indira Gandhi about ‘bias for action’ are a reminder that it is not just the big ambitious idea that matters, but the daily persistence in pursuit of that idea that really counts. Whenever you feel stuck again in the dogma of analysis paralysis, just pause and ask yourself what value your analysis will add.  And remember: everyone who has ever taken a shower once got a great idea.  However, it’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who truly makes a difference. 

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