Eeek! Shiny Object Syndrome!

Posted by on Jun 09 2014

It seems to be a trend that’s growing: small business owners are getting distracted by too many ideas or the latest fad, going off in a million directions and never completing anything. (Employees suffer from this, too!)

This loss of focus is costing people hundreds of hours a year in lost productivity, lost hours, lost dollars.

It even has a name: SOS – Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s not quite ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.

We think of a new idea, we hear of a great new gadget or marketing technique, and ZOOM, we’re off! There’s great energy and excitement in starting something new.

Of course what happens is that that everything always gets started, but nothing ever gets finished. In addition, countless hours and dollars are wasted in pursuit of the new, shiny object without having thought through whether this new item, technique, service or product is “right” for your business. Countless people have started blogs and abandoned them within a year (or less!) because they got tired of writing posts — or worse, no one was reading the posts.

It’s Not Just You

Lest you think that it’s only us small business owners who suffer from it, you’ll be happy to know that it’s rampant in many industries.

Software and tech companies are notorious for following every cool new fad that comes along, without thinking strategically about whether it’s a good fit for their business model.

TV creates shows around SOS, then dumps the show after 6 or 8 episodes.

Big business follows every business development fad that comes out in books or from gurus, only to drop it when the next cool fad arrives.

Tips for Choosing a Focus

I know it’s hard not to get excited about every new idea that comes past you. Some of them are very, very cool. But you are running a business and you must stop and ask yourself:

  • Is this right for my business/career?
  • Do my customers want this, and are they willing to pay for it?
  • Do I have the time, resources, energy, and money to put into this to make it successful?
  • Do I have too many open projects sitting on my desk that need to be finished before I begin something new?
  • Do I have the ability to finish this new project, and implement it, and maintain it?
  • What has to drop off my radar in order for me to start something new?

There’s nothing wrong with loving innovation and reinvention. Just make sure you don’t lose focus on what’s most important for you, your business and your customers.


17 comments for now

17 Responses to “Eeek! Shiny Object Syndrome!”

  1. Sandra

    Oh boy do I suffer from SOS. I have projects galore, but my problem is, I don’t know which one will make enough money to sustain it.

    I really need to learn how to do market research.

    15 Jul 2007 at 6:38 pm

  2. Erin Blaskie

    Great post!

    I use this phrase a lot when I’m coaching clients. They really understand the concept when I use the terminology!

    I have to admit that I fall into this category at times but most times, I can catch myself and reign the idea back in to a holding cell until I really, really have time to focus on it and determine whether it would be useful / profitable or not.

    As entrepreneurs, we suffer from this big time!


    23 Jul 2007 at 3:51 pm

  3. Online Job Posting

    before entering a business to regardless of what it will be a good planning must be than because you will be gambling a lot never mind the money involve but the effort you will be putting…

    27 Mar 2008 at 7:49 am

  4. […] her post “Eeek! Shiny Object Syndrome,” Karyn Greenstat of Passion for Business writes, “It seems to be a trend that’s […]

    29 Jul 2008 at 10:25 am

  5. […] familiar? It is called the Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS), term used by Passion for Business’ Karyn Greenstreet. In his article Greenstreet explains […]

    11 Feb 2011 at 11:52 pm

  6. Right on target, Karen! One of the bright shiny objects I see often is offers by successful internet marketers to have you learn what they did to make six or seven figure incomes overnight. They offer hours of free training, which of course never leads you to their secrets, but keeps you hooked on imagining that you can become instantly successful. Instant wealth may happen to a handful of people (the lottery DOES have winners), but for most of us the path to a successful business requires focus, dedication, and patience.

    13 Dec 2011 at 8:41 am

  7. Karyn Greenstreet

    Amen, Susan. I know thousands and thousands of small business owners. And out of all those business owners and solo entrepreneurs, I don’t know one that’s said, “Oh, I just did XYZ and I got rich overnight.”

    I believe that many people offer great training, but you have to be willing to DO the work and implement what you’re learning. Not only that, you have pay attention to what’s working and what’s not working, and tweak along the way. Which means you have to spend time thinking, pondering, questioning, tracking. That’s hard work. And it’s immensely rewarding work. 🙂

    13 Dec 2011 at 8:53 am

  8. As a visionary, I am constantly bombarded with ideas. I sometimes find it hard to stay in track as well. My focus is to repurpose what I’ve already created to get more life out of them. I tell my clients, you can only drive one car, park the others for now and set a date when you plan to drive those. That keeps the anticipation level in check because if their ‘car’ fits their business model they have a planned time when that will be their focus.

    13 Dec 2011 at 11:04 am

  9. Karyn Greenstreet

    I love that analogy, Robin! I don’t know one entrepreneur who doesn’t have a ton of ideas…but choosing one, getting (and staying) focused, is that makes a business successful.

    13 Dec 2011 at 11:14 am

  10. Robert Goodwyn

    Enjoyed your article on SOS. I try to work B2B- Back to Basics. Staying focused on the most important things, utilizing only what is necessary, and maximizing what I use is the way I go. All the gadgets with all their functions overwhelm me, and before I can get use to them- they come out with a new one!
    Great Article – will archive for future reference!

    14 Dec 2011 at 8:02 am

  11. Karyn Greenstreet

    Same here, Robert. I love gadgets, but they don’t necessarily simplify my life or my business process.

    14 Dec 2011 at 8:08 am

  12. Hi Karyn,

    thanks for the post.

    I’m a copywriter and I find SOS is a major problem with a lot of my clients. For example, they’ll change their minds five times about what to include in an About page after reading yet another piece of contradictory marketing advice.

    The truth is that no plan or idea is perfect. We just have to test what works. If we keep jumping from one plan to the next, without finishing any one of them, then we never find out which is the successful one and why.

    14 Dec 2011 at 12:31 pm

  13. Karyn love the SOS. Sometimes acronyms give us a cool reminder of our need to focus and not let other people influence us unduly. Staying aware of a simpler way of doing something or keeping in mind that there may be better way is fine but constantly using research to improve can drive you broke faster than anything I know. Being too narrow minded is also a problem for business owners. Thanks for the share

    14 Dec 2011 at 1:57 pm

  14. Boy, that’s the truth! I’ve been counseling my coaching clients for years against this problem. And yet, this SOS shows up for me on my Kindle. I have soooo many books that are waiting to either get read or finished; it’s embarrassing. And fortunately (or not), my dozens of marketing ideas haven’t yet even been launched. Maybe that’s where they belong–in my mind. Keeping it simple is tough…
    Thanks for the reminder.

    10 Jun 2014 at 5:59 am

  15. Karyn – SOS is REAL. I decided that this year I would write a mission statement that would guide every.single.decision I made in my business, throughout the year.

    If an opportunity comes my way, and it doesn’t align, I put it aside. If an idea comes my way, and it doesn’t match, I put it aside.

    Here’s my mission statement that I have used as my measuring stick: My mission this year is to spread joy with words, using language to unite people around the world, so we can share experiences, laughter, and love through writing.

    This has worked WONDERS in my biz on so many levels. It has helped me stay completely focused and not fall into SOS. 🙂

    Great post—thank you!

    10 Jun 2014 at 6:57 am

  16. Great post Karyn, thank you. When my business started 6 years ago I really had no idea of what worked and what didn’t. Over time, watching others, and giving a number of things an honest effort, I have come to a place as a business owner where I am better in tuned with what’s right – for me. Thanks to a number of professionals, like yourself, I’ve learned who to trust, like you, and who is just out to make a sale or add to their list. Joining my local Chamber, including the solopreneur group there, was a boon as well as hiring other coaches or professionals at times to keep me on target works great too. Solo doesn’t so much mean to me going it alone, it means I have complete call on who to add to my team.

    10 Jun 2014 at 8:06 am

  17. Isaiver

    Staying focused is the most important thing when it comes to business. I like this article and its analogy! New here and I found your blogs amazing and content rich. More success to you!

    10 Jun 2014 at 10:07 am

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