Asking themselves this question gave Intel’s President, Andy Grove, and its Chairman and CEO, Gordon Moore, the clarity to make a critical, business-changing decision to get the company out of the business of memory… the very thing it had been founded to accomplish. It would instead focus its attention on a small second business unit – microprocessors – that had its big break in 1981 when IBM selected Intel to be the brain of its new personal computer.

A painful choice met with disdain internally effectively changed the course of Intel’s existence. Since that decision to get out of the memory business in 1985, Intel has dominated the microprocessor market. The challenge in making the choice to let go of a historical strength was not in lack of facts or data, but in the presence of emotion… one of the four villains of decision-making.

Comparing options on a spreadsheet, making pros and cons lists, contrasting alternate paths – they may all be good exercises in analysis. But they may also cause paralysis. Add in the emotion and there is no clear way forward. Only a dose of outside perspective may help you see where you need to go.

What do you do when you’re caught in the mire or having analysis paralysis?

Chip Heath, Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, contributed more on this topic in his Watercooler Newsletter article, “Revolving Door Test: How Intel overcame fear by gaining an outsider’s perspective,” excerpted from
 his and Dan Heath’s newest book, Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work.

April 12, 2013


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