Shiny Object Syndrome

Have you heard of shiny object syndrome? It’s what’s known as the disease of distraction. We humans have the affliction of always looking for the next, best new thing (or feature). This disease keeps us from fully realizing the potential of our current ideas, and developing what we already have.

Entrepreneurial product teams tend to be highly motivated. They love new ideas and get fascinated with the possibilities of creating all the best new features that will be better than everyone else’s. It’s not a bad character trait to have.

But when shiny object syndrome takes hold, things often go awry. Teams don’t focus on the most important features and making them as impactful as they can be.

Derek Sivers, author of the popular book Anything You Want has a great litmus test that applies to both product teams creating features, and for making life decisions in general. Sivers says, “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”

When you say no to most new features, you leave room to fully engage your product team into the features you are most excited about. The ones that make you say “HELL YES!”

Features that don’t help the customer achieve the desired outcome that your product promises to deliver are definitely unnecessary. They might be “nice to haves”, but you should never say “HELL YES!” to those.

For example, blockchain in 2018 was all the rage. Many teams decided to make their products “blockchain-based” in order to get funding or attention from investors. This is a poor motivation. If blockchain doesn’t add value for their product, then it’s not a “HELL YES.”

A certain beverage company by the name of Long Island Iced Tea learned this lesson firsthand. After its shares fell by 24%, they decided to invest in 1,000 Bitcoin mining machines. They renamed themselves to Long Blockchain Corp. Their shares soared by 200% as a result. It stabilized at about $7 per share after the announcement. What has happened since then? Well, it retracted from investing in blockchain, and its stock fell to $0.14 per share as of early January, 2019.

Stay focused on the main problem your product solves. When incorporating features, do a litmus test and ask yourself if the feature contributes to the solution. Remember, sometimes less is more.

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