Shiny Object Syndrome

Engineers, marketing people, programmers and office techs love chasing the next shiny new thing. It seems like every week, we can learn about a new technology, software, or media platform that promises to be the much better and easier thing to use than what we have. I call the instant reaction to this the “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

We sometimes get so captivated by the shiny new thing that we forget the fundamentals, that the business’ goals come first. The shiny objects that we come across are only worthwhile in terms of how they help us to reach those business goals. The value is in what the shiny new thing enables, not the shiny new thing itself. Will it improve our efficiency, help us deliver better service or improve our communications?

A marketing company we just hired asked me, “What’s your Facebook strategy?” Not only did the question automatically assume that Facebook was a fit for our company and branding, but the question implied that we would develop a new strategy for Facebook rather than ask how Facebook could improve our existing strategy. The question put the cart before the horse. Just because Facebook may be the shiny new marketing tool doesn’t mean it’s a fit for every business model.

Any successful new initiative or program requires resources, energy and commitment. However, the cost of perpetually chasing the shiny new things reduces your resources from being able to focus on daily operations.

We quite often have our team members finding the next Shiny New Object. It seems instead of better learning the tools they have, they search the internet for something easier. This isn’t necessarily a bad trait, but it can consume a lot of otherwise productive hours. They’re enticing because these come with a free trial. One of the reasons shiny new things look so good is that they typically have a marketing team pushing them, but many days are wasted while experimenting with the new tool or app. You need to look past the marketing to see the reality.

As president I have to allow a certain amount of exploration buy can’t let it be a runaway train. The solution is to put a time limit, say 4 or 8 hours, and a deadline on the investigation and have the person put together a pros and cons list with comparison to what will be replaced. Then he must make a presentation to the group. The bad shiny objects get dropped very fast and the good shiny objects surface and get validated in a reasonable amount of time.

We need to acknowledge that new technologies and programs may present themselves as a better solution, but we need to keep that exploration in check. There has to be caution and careful analysis before jumping in with both feet.


Robert White, PhD
Focus Works Inc.