To Increase Your Chances Of Success, Maybe You Should Be Less Focused

Apr 12 2014, 9:46am CDT | by

Saying you should be less focused sounds strange, I know.

We praise focus to the skies.

We criticize people when they are not.

Heck, even the Harvard Business Review had a cover story back in December with the tag line: “Focused Leaders: How Effective Executives direct their own–and their organization’s attention.”

Given all this, how could you possibly be too focused?

It’s easy.

Here’s where you could be going wrong

The problem with focus has two inter-related parts.

1. You can be so focused on your goals that you miss other (potentially) better opportunities around you.

2. It assumes the path you are on will always be the best way one to achieve your goals.

Let’s take the problems one at a time.

Suppose it is the early 1990s and you are in the media business, a very good place to be back then.  You wake up every single morning focused on one goal: Creating the best newspaper, magazine, long playing record, etc. that you can.  You are creative and relentless in your pursuit.

In fact, you are so focused that you fail to pay enough attention to the changing world around you, and so you and your company are surprised—perhaps fatally so—when the Internet and delivery systems like iTunes make what you have for sale increasingly irrelevant.

(And, ironically, that is true even though you were ideally positioned to take advantage of the change and probably had institutional memory to do so.  One of the reasons old time print communication companies became media giants was that they were quick to jump on newfangled inventions like radio, television and cable when they came along.  Those same companies missed the proverbial boat this time around.)

The second problem is, as I said, related to the first. It looks like this: When you lay out the path to achieve your goal you tend to assume that tomorrow is going to be pretty much like today.

If you do that—and continue to assume your plan is right—when you encounter an obstacle on the way to achieving success, your first, second and third reaction is overcome it. That isn’t surprisingly, most time when we encounter a problem we are told, “Don’t be a wimp. You had a good plan. Redouble your efforts and power on through.”

In other words, focus even harder. Once the goal is set, you are supposed to constantly correct to stay on plan.

And yet as we saw when we were discussing media companies—and we could have been talking about the people who made cameras or pay phones or dozens of other industries you can think of that are now in trouble—that is not always the best way to go.

An alternative path

What should do instead?/>/>

Instead of focusing on your plan, focus on your goal.

If you do, you become open to new and potentially better ideas.

Let’s use the world’s most clichéd example to hammer home the point.

Suppose you really do want to open a lemonade stand.

You could draw up a detailed plan showing what your stand will look like, how you will present and price your product and, of course, coming up with the world’s best recipe. If the market seems indifferent, you “just” put in longer hours, create more aggressive marketing, and focus even harder on making the plan a reality.

Or, instead of concentrating on the plan,  you could shift your attention to your goal of selling as much lemonade as possible.

While it seems no one is really interested in yet another lemonade stand, people keep telling you they would love to have good tasting lemonade available to them in the break room at work, something that could be an alternative to soft drinks and water.

All of a sudden you are distributing your product through all those companies that service office coffee and tea machines.

The takeway: If you are committed to the goal—whether it be creating a wonderful media company or selling a lot of lemonade—and not your plan, you become more flexible.

Some would call it becoming less focused.

I would call increasing your chances for success.

###

Paul B. Brown is the author of How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy.

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

US reporter requests privacy after release
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS/EFE) The US journalist, who was freed this week by the miltants in Syria after two years in captivity, Wednesday thanked everyone for their efforts to secure his release and asked for privacy to be with his family.
 
 
Congo confirms six Ebola cases
Brazzaville, Aug 28 (IANS) Six cases of the Ebola virus have been confirmed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said Wednesday.
 
 
IMF chief faces investigation in corruption case
Paris, Aug 27 (IANS/EFE) International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has been put under investigation in France for "negligence" after being questioned for hours in a corruption case, judicial sources said Wednesday. She denied wrongdoing.
 
 
Whale tourism affecting marine animals' behaviour
London, Aug 27 (IANS) Boat trips to watch whales and dolphins may increasingly put the survival of marine mammals at risk, conservationists have warned.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Huntington-Whiteley loves making creative decision
London, Aug 28 (IANS) Supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has enjoyed indulging her creative tendencies since leaving Victoria's Secret. Huntington-Whiteley has revealed that working with British high street store...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Holmes offers $1,000 reward for return of Suri's pet
Los Angeles, Aug 28 (IANS) Actress Katie Holmes has reportedly offered a $1000 reward for the safe return of her daughter's pet dog following its disappearance. Suri's new new Chihuahua, Honey, went missing Sunday....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Shooting instructor killed as girl accidentally shot in US
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS) A shooting instructor was killed after a nine-year-old girld accidentally shot in the head at a gun range in the US, media reported Thursday. The deadly incident occurred Monday morning at a...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Bella Thorne splits from Tristan Klier
Bella Thorne has split up with her boyfriend of more than two years, Tristan Klier. The 16-year-old actress confirmed that they recently decided to part ways after being asked about their relationship status on Twitter...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Ashton Kutcher is glued to Mila Kunis
Ashton Kutcher refuses to leave Mila Kunis' side as her due date approaches. The 'Two and a Half Men' star, 36, has been spending as much quality time as possible with the pregnant 'Black Swan' actress, who is expecting...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Charlize Theron feels more sensual with age
Charlize Theron thinks women only ''come into their prime'' in their 40s. The 39-year-old 'Prometheus' star, who is dating Sean Penn, 54, says 20-year-olds ''have no f**king concept'' about life and believes the beauty...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Heather Morris is engaged
Heather Morris has got engaged to Taylor Hubbell. The 27-year-old actress, who has an 11-month-old son, Elijah, with her longtime beau, is thrilled to be planning their wedding after he recently proposed. A source close...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Australia to help US in Iraq air strikes
Canberra, Aug 28 (IANS) Australia has expressed willingness to contribute its Super Hornet fighter jets to help US-led air strikes in Iraq. Defence Minister David Johnston said Wednesday night that Australia was...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Kidnapped US journalist's mother pleads IS to release son
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS/EFE) The mother of a US freelance journalist, who was kidnapped in Syria by the Islamic State(IS), Wednesday released a video in which she urged the jihadist group to "be merciful" and release...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Bieber compares himself to Princess Diana
Los Angeles, Aug 28 (IANS) Troubled singer Justin Bieber has compared himself to the late Princess Diana after he reportedly experienced a minor car collision when he was infuriated about being pursued by a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla