There was a study done by a bunch of psychologists (don't ask me for a reference, we were talking about this over a pint in a pub) where they invited people to come into a store and try a selection of pricey, boutique jams. The offer was that after trying all the jams, the participants would pick one jar (and one jar only) to take home for free. A free jar of swanky jam?!? No ways! So in they poured. The first group got to try five jams, pick only one and leave. The next groups got to try seven, ten and twelve flavours of jams but could still only pick one to take home for free. In the follow up study, participants were asked how satisfied they were with the jam they picked. And what do you know... the level of satisfaction dropped as the number of jams they had to pick from increased, regardless of which flavour they actually picked.
In business this is what we call Opportunity Cost. Every decision you make comes at the cost of having to not make the other decision(s). By picking one out of five jams, the first group only had to sacrifice not picking four jams, whereas the next groups had to forego an increasingly larger number of jams. The more choices you have, the unhappier you are with the choice you make.
|Too many options to choose only one!|
Picking a direction and then accepting that decision without wondering about the foregone options is a challenge in a startup where everything is new, untested and uncertain. Founders have to make multiple decisions every day, some which could change the direction of their business significantly. It is easy and exciting to explore numerous alternative solutions to a problem, but it's difficult once you've conjured up 20 solutions to knuckle down and pursue only one. When you find yourself in this position, compare your options based on the information you have available (which won't be complete, so don't allow yourself to wait until you have complete information before making a decision). And then go with your gut. You can ask mentors and peers for their advice, but chances are you already have your preference in your gut. Go with that one - it's the one you'll be happiest to pursue. And if it fails - hey, you have 19 other options to go and explore after.
The only way to move beyond the fear of making the wrong decision is to accept that the only wrong decision in a startup is to not make a decision because not making a decision squanders all your options.
Fail early, fail often. Learn. Repeat. Persist. Success will come.