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3 big tips for overcoming ‘shiny object syndrome'

Entrepreneurs are generally, full of it - ideas, that is. It’s the nature of the game. But that bubbling passion for change and improvement can also lead to ruin.

by Catie McHugh
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Entrepreneurs are generally, full of it - ideas, that is. It’s the nature of the game. They love spotting opportunities and thinking about new ways they can enrich the markets around them… and that’s the kind of unique motivation that leads to the developments that change our world.

But that bubbling passion for change and improvement can also lead to ruin. Entrepreneurs are highly susceptible to being distracted by thoughts of the Next Big Thing they’ve uncovered. That constant diversion is called “Shiny Object Syndrome” (SOS), and it could stop you succeeding as an entrepreneur.

Here’s the thing, though - the very behaviours and strengths that our research show are  inherent in successful entrepreneurs are the very same that could have you suffering SOS if they’re too potent… because of course everything has to have a catch.

Successful entrepreneurs have high initiation - that is, they take ideas and run with them. Rather than miss opportunities, or wait around for others to start, they start putting the wheels in motion. However, if the motivation to initiate has reached gargantuan proportions, this can often manifest as a lack of focus - something critical in completing the important tasks required when getting a venture off and racing.

Here are some ways you can recognize Shiny Object Syndrome in yourself, and overcome it:


1. You never seem to finish projects that you start.

SOS is the ultimate blockade standing between you and a completed project or goal. Do you find yourself overcome with excitement at a new idea, thus abandoning the old one? Or maybe you feel you didn’t see results quick enough. Whatever the reason, ‘unfinished business’ has no business in entrepreneur-world.


What to do instead:

Many initiatives will take some time to incubate - like an SEO strategy, for example. It’s not the sort of thing that will yield immediate results, but changing tact or abandoning it completely will kill any long-term benefits.

If you find yourself easily distracted, or just unenthused by lengthy projects, it’s a good idea to break things up. Set a big, long-term vision, but get there by setting small, short-term goals that can be executed and completed quickly. You’ll get the satisfaction of chipping away at the project, and will be less likely to lose interest in something that appears slow-moving and less gratifying.


2. Your funds are drained on things you thought you needed.


In a startup, you may find that you’re dedicating a lot of resources (read: cash) to areas you deem critical at the time. This makes sense - but when your focus is constantly shifting, those critical initiatives start soaking up a lot of money, and never realise their potential before you’re onto the next thing. And this could threaten the life of your whole operation.


What to do instead:

As we said before, having high initiation is a great strength in successful entrepreneurship. However, you really need to take a breath if it’s so high that you’re suffering from SOS.

We found that a focus on money is inherent in successful entrepreneurs - but not in the way you may think. Rather than daydreaming of swimming in piles of money, they were intimately familiar with the financial side of the business - margins, expenses, profits - you know, the nerdy and less fun spreadsheet stuff. With these factors on your radar, expenditure is at the forefront and you will be less likely to send good money after bad by switching projects too hastily.


3. Your team is in a constant state of confusion.

“Oh, we’re not doing that anymore? Okay… “

Sound familiar?

When you constantly change tact, shift focus and jump between initiatives in your venture, the team has to keep up with them. In the crazy-ass world of startup, fast-paced rollouts and quick strategy come with the territory, but if no-one ever gets to finish anything, it can be very unsatisfying for the people working on sprints and projects.


What to do instead:

You and your team are there to support each other, so don’t be afraid to talk to them. Use your team to stay focussed - their knowledge and expertise can help you properly assess the merits of a new opportunity against the rewards of the existing strategy. Don't be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater!



Think you’re high on initiation? We can tell you. Take the Fingerprint for Success assessment and find out.

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