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Shiny object syndrome – do you suffer from it?

August 30, 2017

By Mary Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

I am the youngest of seven kids.  A typical, Irish-Mexican, Catholic family.  Being the youngest, one of the things I missed out on was having a babysitter.  My older siblings had that task and were never very happy about it.  I distinctly remember them keeping me occupied with shiny objects, so when I read an article recently on Shiny Object Syndrome in business, it caught my attention.

Turns out, Shiny Object Syndrome in the business world is a real thing.  After looking into this further, I found that it is most prevalent with entrepreneurs.  They tend to be highly motivated individuals that crave new technology and ideas.  They thrive on creating new projects.  I have found this to be very true.  I have a good friend that is a business owner and entrepreneur. We’ll often be having dinner and he’ll suddenly go off-topic and then say, “Sorry!  Saw a shiny object!”  He’ll then come back to the topic at hand.  The good thing is that he notices it and reels himself back in.  However, too many times businesses and their leaders get sidetracked with Shiny Object Syndrome; therefore, creating a lack of productivity and goal achievement.

Shiny Object Syndrome is described as the new “it”, which can be anything that distracts you from your task.  
An article published recently in Entrepreneur lists ways in which Shiny Object Syndrome can have serious consequences:

  • Inability to finish a project – If you are constantly distracted by the next big idea, it becomes very difficult to accomplish any one goal.  For business owners or leaders, it is important to see a project through to completion for optimal results.  Nothing will ever get done if you are always moving on to the next best thing.
  • Confusing your staff – If you present an idea to your team, you must stay the course and present its long term goals.  Staff will become very frustrated if you are constantly asking them to change directions and not allowing them to see any one objective through to completion.
  • Burning through cash – To see ROI on any one project you must give that project the attention it needs and allow it to come to full fruition.  By starting multiple projects and never finishing them all, you’ll never realize the ROI from that initial investment.

So how can Shiny Object Syndrome be overcome?  If you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome, it’s important to realize that not every great idea needs to be acted on.  Research it to make sure it’s as great as it seems, and then prioritize it along with other projects currently underway.  Ask yourself if this project would subtract valuable staff time from other important tasks they are currently working on.  If so, what is the long term benefit?  How does it fit in with the overall corporate or department strategy?  Perhaps it’s a good idea, but one to be put in place after other projects have come to a close.

I consider myself lucky to not suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome, considering that my siblings were always trying to occupy me with the newest, shiniest toy!  I try very hard to maintain focus on whatever the main project is at hand and ensure that I see it through.  My team often presents creative, wonderful new ideas.  I always listen and file them in my brain to bring them out at a later date.

As always, I want to hear your feedback.  I loved the feedback received from the Emotional Intelligence blog.  Several of you wrote to tell me how soft skills are many times so much more important than technical skills – especially in supervisory roles.  Let me know if you’ve ever experienced Shiny Object Syndrome and how it has affected you or your organization.  Email me at mcorrado@aseonline.org.

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