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  • Writer's pictureEileen Licitra

Let's Overthink It Please!

Here’s the thing: Some of the best practices have been hijacked by bad practices.

An example: Fail fast.

This term, evangelized by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup, is an approach to developing and validating ideas and products, iterating, and improving along the way based on qualitative feedback. Learn from mistakes, stop what’s not working and move forward with what is working. (Oversimplified explanation. I recommend the book).

Unfortunately, some companies have redefined “fail fast” as ping ponging from one idea to the next looking for that magic bullet. They try a half dozen things, rarely stop to get qualitative feedback, and when the idea doesn’t immediately produce the desired results, launch into another idea. This bad practice leaves in its wake frustrated employees, wasted resources and lost revenue (the opposite of what they were intending).

Which brings me back to overthinking.

Overthinking, by definition, runs the gamut from over-analyzing a decision to conjuring up all sorts of negative outcomes because of a decision you might make. Neither approach is good!

Like “fail fast,” “don’t overthink it” has become, in some cases, either a mantra to forge ahead with an idea or a project that isn’t thought through, or license to over-rely on what worked in the past, even if the current conditions aren’t the same. I see it in go-to-market strategy, product strategy, product positioning, partnership development, demand generation, revenue forecasting and more.

Almost always ending with poor results.

Here’s what I strongly advocate when it comes to ideas: Take more time up front to think through (call it overthink if you wish) the following:

  1. The outcomes your target customers will value if they use your products and services. Not all outcomes are equal, or equally valuable.

  2. How to validate assumptions with qualitative feedback. There are always ways to get to the right people with the right questions.

  3. The competitive landscape and how you’ll win. While you don’t need to overly focus on your competitors, remember that prospects will consider your competitors if their solution and their message is a fit.

  4. Assumptions that fuel your revenue projections. Yes, educated guesses play a part as you won’t have all the answers. Be sure the guesses are educated with as many facts as you can get.

  5. What might work best today, vs. what worked in the past, based on market conditions, the competitive landscape, technology advances or other trends. This isn’t a dismissal of your past success. It’s a reminder that your previous success was earned through hard work and good thinking. Do that again.


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