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Shiny Object Syndrome. Do you have it?

If you search the Internet for the term "Shiny Object Syndrome" you'll learn that it refers to the penchant many people have for latching onto the latest tech toys and social networking media no matter the cost in dollars, time or productivity. Email and websites?  Old school.  How about Facebook, Flickr and Twitter?  What's next and how fast will it get here?  Applied to the world of cultural organizations, how well will shiny objects facilitate relationship-building among and between audiences?

When used in the broader context of attention diversion, Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS, for short) has been alive and well in the organizational environment for a very long time.  SOS can just as easily be about introducing costumed interpreters to increase visitation as it is about inaugurating a wild and whacky fundraising event to bolster the bottom line.  Funders, too, are all potential shiny objects.  In other words, shiny objects can take an organization to the next level or over the edge...or both, depending on your ability to get past their glitter.

Shiny objects do serve an important purpose:  they require an organization to have the conversation about what really matters.  Todd Defren at says it well: “Shiny Object Syndrome is marked by a headlong and heedless rush; but, lasting businesses are built when...plans are carefully plotted and sculpted - not thrown against the wall to see what sticks.”   How many times do you feel as though your board or staff leadership jumps from one idea to the next without benefit of a check-in with mission or strategic plan?  

We're probably all guilty of SOS from time to time.  Our goal as organizational stewards is to make sure we understand how this bright bauble will enhance or expand what we're meant to do.  So here's a quick list to employ for the next time you're dazzled (from Karyn Greenstreet's blog):

  • Is this right for our organization:  does it fit our mission and our current plans? 
  • Do our stakeholders customers want this, and are they willing to pay for it?
  • Do we have the time, resources, energy, and money to put into this to make it?
  • Do we have too many open projects that need to be finished before we begin something new?
  • Do we have the ability to finish this new project, and implement it, and maintain it?
  • What has to drop off our radar in order for us to start something new?


artsmart said…
It's hard keeping up with SOS! Recently my constituents indicated they would prefer a blog over our list serve. The list serve allowed me to post to the whole group information of interest to them, and they could respond. It has its drawbacks, but the blog requires a person to actively go to the blog site - one more chore in their busy work days! I'm thinking of ways to combine the best of both.

Anne, your blog is terrific, and I plan to post it to the list serve so that all my constituents can check it out.

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