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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...

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14 weeks ago

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.

 
Update
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6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Cambodia's Famous Battambang Circus
KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was told ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
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6 weeks ago

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6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the Dewan Rak ...
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Update
7

6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamm ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

6 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

INDIA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY-TRADE
PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern states last ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Government Weekly Cabinet Meeting
KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 million ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Dat ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocatio ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM - Day One
PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar Sch ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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