Analysis Paralysis

May 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm 2 comments

An interesting article in the New York Times about Douglas Bowman, former top visual designer at Google, now Twitter’s Creative Director. Mr. Bowman said that creativity at Google was at the mercy of data. Every design concept had to be assiduously tested, put out on the Internet for customer feedback and tracking before official implementation.

Mr. Bowman’s observations invoke the term “analysis paralysis,” a state that stifles decision making through the consumption and examination of data. Some of my favorite authors/experts study this phenomenon. In their recent book, War in the Boardroom, Al and Laura Ries describe the battle between left-brained, data-driven management and right-brained, perception-based marketers, telling tales of brands and marketing campaigns smashed flat between spreadsheet pages. In his landmark work, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen explains how overreliance of customer feedback can lead to product and corporate stagnation. (reminiscent of the quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”)

Research is essential to marketing. The answers lie in the marketplace, not in anyone’s “gut.” But at a key point in every program (marketing, communications, product development, etc.), you must leap.  There is no safe bet for creativity. And there is no success without it.


Entry filed under: Creativity, Leadership, Marketing. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael Grisham  |  May 17, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Creativity is at the mercy of the marketplace, as always. And Google offers a beautiful fast preview of the marketplace, through testing. A good designer would welcome the chance to try one wildly creative idea after another in the best marketplace we’ve ever seen, with instant results available about the success of a design. There’s no reason to think there’s any paralysis here.

    • 2. jasonkarpf  |  May 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

      No question that we are plugged into the consumer like never before, and that Google is the vanguard of that power. Testing concepts is nothing new to marketing, best demonstrated by direct mail campaigns that launch test groups with different designs/copy to gauge response rate. But Google’s design testing process could take matters too far, slowing creative execution to a crawl as “the wisdom of the crowd” is sought at all costs.


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