How much data? How much analysis?

Gather enough data and do enough analysis to make a good decision. Then decide. Then act.

There are many famed quotes on the theme of “how much is enough”:

Lore has it that someone once asked Abraham Lincoln, “How long should a man’s legs be?” and that he answered “Long enough to reach the ground.” Einstein is credited for a quote something like, “Make everything [i.e. theories or models] as simple as possible, but no simpler.” And my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Eleanor Ponder, would say this about how long our essays should be: “like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep it interesting.”

At their worst, executives have a bias toward either shoot-from-the-hip decision making, or paralysis by analysis. Better off are those who know what level of confidence they need before they can make a decision, and what amount of data and analysis they need to get that level of confidence.

If you know you lean too far in one direction, make a point to ask of your partners (or engineer for yourself) a flag or alert when you need correcting action. Expect that it will take a few tries before the new habit sticks.

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