"Don't overthink it" is one of my least favorite business buzzword phrases. I like implementation, but I also like thinking about things, too. Taking ample time to think before launching into implementation isn't necessarily overthinking. But that doesn't stop people from overusing the phrase. In fact, hearing about overthinking from a boss one too many times caused me to launch a business comedy blog as an online venue to vent my frustration several years ago.
For whatever reasons, I’ve had several people say, “Don’t overthink it,” in recent weeks. On Parks and Rec last night, Ron Swanson even told Andy Dwyer, “I never thought I’d say this, but I think you’re overthinking it, son.”
While I understand the sentiment behind not overthinking something, I question whether that is what’s really happening most of the time. Rather than overthinking, my experience suggests the problem is usually “understarting.”
From seeing examples of understarting throughout my career, it’s characterized by:
- Waiting for more inspiration before starting.
- Thinking everything has to be planned out before starting.
- Requiring themselves to start at the natural start when that’s the worst place to get started.
- Opting to gather more information when they already have enough information to begin.
- Sitting tight to wait for someone else to initiate a first step.
- Distracting themselves with something less important and less challenging to do.
- Avoiding people who will hold them accountable for their lack of progress.
If you ask me, just as the 16th Peter’s Rule (When in doubt: THINK!) would suggest, you can’t really think TOO much. You should be thinking all the time. But that doesn’t exempt you from launching into implementation and the doing of something business. - Mike Brown
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