Being a fitness nerd, I see the Shiny Object syndrome happen often given I hang out with people investing large amounts of effort in improving at the greatest rate possible. We (me included) switch training programs regularly and rapidly. I looked up this past year and realized I’d be on no less than four different training methodologies. The downside to this strategy is obvious: by switching too often, a training program never has a chance to prove that it’s working or not.
In being a fly on the wall at TechStars Cloud for this 2013 session, I’ve seen startups go through the same thing. They walk from mentor to mentor meeting and change their strategy within the span of a 15 foot journey from room to room. Sometimes this happens more than once in a single day. Fortunately, after the 50th or 60th mentor meeting, the pattern emerges for them: for every opinion they hear, someone else will give them exactly the opposite guidance. They realize one or two or even three data points do not prove or disprove a hypothesis.
Clearly, jumping too quickly from a path in search of a Shiny Object is going to be suboptimal. The TechStars teams and my fitness friends ultimately see the pattern and realize that the optimal approach is one of balance. As one is gathering data and still has an incomplete picture of the world, more than a few data points need to be accumulated before one can confidently say “Let’s do this instead.” This holds in fitness, startups and certainly in life in general.