Shiny Object Syndrome

March 1, 2023
Figuring out which distractions represent worthwhile objectives.

You have seen the lines of people at the store to grab the latest version of the iPhone they are using to post their status update on social media. The person who trades in their vehicle yearly for the latest version of the vehicle they already have. People rummaging through Amazon or shopping channels to find something not in their house now, excited to complete their kitchen tools (guilty as charged on that one). These people who happily keep us out of recession suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome (S.O.S.). It is a fascination of getting the next big thing, the new, updated color but same old object as last year. 

S.O.S. is not all that bad. When we purchase the new versions of our products, it can help stimulate the economy and local jobs. The pop-up of a new product or place sparks the S.O.S. activation, driving consumers to the register cards in hand. Recently a buzz grocery store “ALDI” opened up in my hometown close to strong store brands that have a long history in our community. While I am not a fan of bringing change with me to get a buggy, the newness filled the parking lot with people who have been waiting to get in. 

It doesn’t have to be new; it can just be reborn. Disney is famous for pulling back products to release it again as an anniversary addition, McDonald’s calls out to the crowd, “The McRib is back!” And how many times will Taco Bell bring back the fries? The excitement of new or renewed can be utilized in your marketing and growth strategy. Look at your services, can you point out something that is seasonalized, something attached to a local event, something that is often forgotten that can bring back attention and dollars to your store? 

Positives and Negatives 

Utilizing S.O.S. can help motivate your team as well. Keeping up with the latest trends and incorporating them into your rewards program can be a great way to motivate your team, drive performance and reduce turnover. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive; it just needs to be fresh. How hard would it be to search for entertainment coming to your area and grab two tickets to throw a quick contest together? Many studies show that experiences as a reward far outweigh money when it comes to happiness. My brain goes back to a time of giving away a pair of music festival tickets instead of cash and hearing of the great weekend from the recipient that wouldn’t have happened if they had to pay for it.  

S.O.S. can wreak havoc in the workplace when it comes to operational planning and execution. Your business strategy should have a small window for adjustments. Things do happen that are not always in your control. Constantly switching your plans and programs to feed your S.O.S. can create confusion in the workplace. The idea of flexible operations can be construed as the leader not knowing where they are going. This confusion leads to your team not being confident in their objectives or your ability to lead. When your team encounters these feelings, they will start the search to find them again—it just might not be with you. 

Managing By Objective (MBO) is a great way to keep your team and location on track for the vision set forth for the company's success. This will help you keep focused and decide if your new shiny object is noise, such as distraction or excuses, or is a legitimate reason for your attention. When the new distraction comes into play, you must decide if this is relevant to your current objectives. If not, you can still plan for it down the line. If this is relevant, is this a reason why you can’t succeed in your objective, or is this just an excuse for why someone doesn’t want to change? This can be identified by looking at your progress so far and determining if you can find someone doing it right and succeeding. Those who do not like to be led or are stuck in their ways love to toss up shiny objects to distract you from their shortcomings. 

While the words Shiny Object Syndrome can point to a weakness in someone’s leadership compass, it does not necessarily mean leadership is weak. After all, tunnel vision is not the strongest of traits for leadership. If seen and categorized efficiently it can drive success. It can also be a wonderful asset to your team's morale with up-to-date rewards and keeping your customers excited about services, events and products otherwise out of sight, out of mind. 

Lavana Howard, vanna d. photography
Photo 112175298 © Weerapat Wattanapichayakul |
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez