Help, I have Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)

By Esther Vargas

In today’s information-rich world, we are constantly being inundated with new ideas, technologies, strategies, developments, projects, opportunities, trends… Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my…

One recurring trait I often see in entrepreneurs is what we affectionately refer to as Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS). Since it is not officially classified as a disorder (whew😊), I offer my layperson’s definition of SOS:  the tendency to pursue new ideas and projects on a whim.

Don’t get me wrong… having a sensitive antenna for opportunities, and a desire and knack for bringing new and valuable developments to market is a great trait to have. Yet, like many good things, there is also a downside when not kept in check. So, what’s the problem with continually pursuing new flashy ideas? In one word… Distraction!

For every new or unplanned idea/project we take on, there is an opportunity cost for abandoning our current project. That opportunity cost comes in the form of taking away focus, losing momentum, and decreasing productivity from our current priorities, among other ramifications. For many innovation-driven entrepreneurs, this also comes at the expense of losing focus on leading their company and achieving their goals in good time.

So, how to filter out all this noise that constantly permeates our entrepreneurial environment and threatens our (and our team’s) sanity? Below is a quick and effective process to help you determine whether it’s advantageous to divert your focus:

  1. Clarify your mission/vision and goals. Chasing shiny objects is often a symptom of not having a clearly articulated vision and mission for your venture, along with supporting goals. Of equal importance is ensuring that this mission and goals are exciting enough that they have staying power.
  2. Assess quickly. Whenever you come across a new idea/opportunity/project, quickly ask yourself and your team these three questions:
    • Is it aligned with our top 1-3 goals?
    • Do we have the bandwidth to take on this project, or does it detract resources (time, people, financial, energy/effort) which are currently committed to another important project?
    • Can it accelerate our timeline to meet our current goals?
  3. Quantify the opportunity. If the answers to #2 above are affirmative, next take some time to evaluate whether the opportunity has a worthwhile ROI. I highly recommend applying Steve Blank’s customer discovery process to quickly test and validate the idea, to critically evaluate whether it makes sense to incorporate into your strategy.
  4. Check in with your coach and/or mentor.  They can provide an objective perspective and can serve as an accountability partner in helping you stay focused. If you are a UCF BIP client your Site Manager can assist with this.

Saying no to new shiny things becomes easier when you can quickly assess whether something is aligned with your clearly defined goals.  The next time a flashy new idea or opportunity comes your way, take a few moments to follow the above tips, while reminding yourself that all that glitters is not gold.