Entrepreneur's Shiny Ball Syndrome

The great thing about entrepreneurs is their abundance of innovation and ideas.  The bad thing about entrepreneurs is…their abundance of ideas.

Often what stands in the way of growth is not the lack of opportunity but being distracted by too much opportunity.

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.
— Michael Porter

We see it every day in those managers who fire off emails to their team over the weekend, sharing their free time inspiration.  The ones who burst in on Monday morning and say “I’ve had a great idea!” (for the 4th time that month).

Is this you? Are you running from one opportunity to the next, always following the new shiny ball?  Well, the good news is, you’re not alone.

By looking everywhere, we focus nowhere.

The problem is that by looking everywhere, we focus nowhere and this is one of the biggest inhibitors to growth: the lack of focus in a consistent, single direction.

Let me give you an example, I once worked with an energetic young business owner who ran a cloud computing business.  To grow his firm he was launching a new service offering, expanding interstate, starting a consultancy and launching an iPhone app.  Any one of these initiatives could have been successful but taken together, they fragmented his attention, his passion and his resources. It’s no surprise that within 12 months he had cancelled all of these initiatives.

Many business owners face this problem.  The key is to focus on just one and more importantly, focusing on the right one.

What makes a good opportunity

When you have an abundance of ideas and opportunities, how do you choose? Well the right one lies at the intersection of what is right for the business and what is right for you.  More specifically you need to identify:

the next logical opportunity given the business’s stage in its lifecycle and

the opportunity aligned to your big picture and overall game plan (direction, purpose, goals and values).

If you have these defined it allows you to focus on not only one shiny ball, but the right shiny ball.

The shiny ball test

As entrepreneurs, we need to create a filter.  We need to establish guidelines that help differentiate between the strategic initiative and the shiny ball.  Here are a couple of tests to get you started:

  1. Is it aligned to the big picture?   Does it contribute to the goals, purpose and direction of your business?  If it’s not going to help you reach the end game, then it’s an opportunistic distraction rather than a strategic initiative.
  2. Does it accelerate your business strategy?  You should have a game plan for your business – a series of milestones or a roadmap of how you’re going to move forward.  If the initiative helps you get there, great.  If it doesn’t contribute to the milestones you’re working on, then it’s a shiny ball.

Questions like these help you stay the course in your business.  This is not to say you shouldn’t explore and innovate but they allow you keep your weekend inspiration in perspective and focus your energy, passion and more importantly, the finances and efforts of your team.