Focus is a good thing. In fact, success requires focus and consistency. But when is focus a bad thing? In this video, I explore why focus may be preventing you from seeing the broader picture and limiting your potential to succeed.
One of the best traits in leadership is the ability to focus on the most important things. However, it’s important to that being too focused on a particular outcome can be just as dangerous. While your attention on a goal can provide the drive and motivation to push your business in a certain direction, too much focus in one area can lead one to “inattentional blindness.”
This is not meant to debase the importance of focus. On the contrary, I believe that focus in important. In fact, I’ve discussed in previous videos the importance of both focus and consistency. In one video, I discuss that some of the best traits of leadership are predictability, focus, and consistency. I also strongly believe that business leaders need to learn how to delegate tasks and responsibilities because doing so allows them to focus on the important things in their business. In yet another video, I also argue that the best and most successful leaders are those who focus on their why, or their reason for doing what they do.
But when is too much focus bad, and why? Too much focus is bad when it leads to inattentional blindness. Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice a fully-visible but unexpected object because attention was engaged on another task, event, or something else. This happens when you are hyper-focused on something.
Have you ever found yourself driving your car and being so focused on something that you failed to observe a stop sign or an uncontrolled junction and failed to stop, but instead slowed down? That is what inattentional blindness does. At some point, we all experience this.
Why is it bad? Because we fail to see signals and dangers. Experts have long cautioned drivers against inattentional blindness while driving.
In business, an example of a company that suffered from inattentional blindness is Polaroid. While this camera brand is enjoying a resurgence with the rise in the analog trend, it suffered a setback when the camera market moved from film to digital.
Polaroid is an analog instant camera brand that held a patent to protect their technology. With their cameras, you can simultaneously take a picture and produce a printed photo, all in a matter of minutes. The patent–protected their camera space from the competition and they enjoyed a healthy business in the camera industry as a result. Their business model operated similarly to the Gilette razor/razor blade model. Polaroid anchored their business on the sales of film and produced new cameras as a means to capture those sales. Their profits were being made on their consumables, not on the camera themselves, so they were hyper–focused on selling more film rather than improving the camera. When digital cameras disrupted the industry, Polaroid found this very challenging.
Hyper–focus becomes a disadvantage when we fail to danger signals or when we cannot perceive opportunities in other business areas because we are too focused on a goal, on a strategy, on a tactic, or on a performance statistic . This was a lesson that cost Polaroid very dearly.
So how do we avoid focusing too intently on something that we develop inattentional blindness? This is when it pays to develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset entails being curious and understanding the importance of constantly learning. This means reading up on developments in your industry, learning how technology is changing or keeping tabs on how other businesses are doing. Doing so helps you understand where changes are coming from and if these changes will affect your focus in the long term. If you want to know more about how you can nurture a growth mindset, please check out this video.