Focus is a good thing. Someone with great focus does not allow distractions to get in the way of what is most important, or even kind of important. Having the kind of focus that allows you get a lot done is great, especially considering we live in a society with distractions coming from every direction mercilessly.
I just spent a week with my family enjoying a variety of beaches in Southern California. We visited four or five different beaches from San Diego to Laguna Beach. Any beach goer knows that finding good parking at the best beaches can be competitive, a test of patience and difficult. So when one finds the best spot, it is reason to rejoice.
During this vacation I had three experiences where I found the killer parking spot right as we were arriving. Someone was leaving and I was the fortunate one to get the spot. No searching and driving around in circles. It was awesome. However – in all three circumstances I became so locked in on the great spot, and was willing to wait the 2-3 minutes (in one case 10 minutes) for the people to pack up and leave that I became blind to acceptable alternatives that we were opening up all around me. It was not until my wife asked why I was not taking the other spots that I noticed I had a chance to park elsewhere.
The goal was to enjoy the beach. Part of that was finding good parking so we did not walk far (which is a pain with small children, chairs, a cooler, boogie boards and more.) The best parking spot was not the goal. An extra 10, 20 or even 100 or 200 feet further would not have been a big deal. But I became so focused on that one option that all other options were obsolete in my mind.
This happens at work for many of us. We get focused on the goal. We get laser focused. Nothing is distracting us. We turn off our phones. We close out our email programs and we get to work. We block off time in our calendar. Nothing is going to get in our way. But while we are doing such a great job eliminating distraction, we fail to see opportunity.
Business environments, tools, and creativity is evolving rapidly. Change is the only constant. The best solutions for today challenges may be outdated and irrelevant in 6 months. If we are too focused, too rigid or too entrenched in processes, procedures and bureaucracies (all of which are designed to improve focus) we may be unable to take advantage of a new solution that will help us achieve our goals faster. It may not have all the bells and whistles (closest parking spot) but we may not need all that anyway.
Unless we are constantly aware of our surroundings, glancing over our shoulder and taking our eyes off the task to what is newly available – we are too focused.
Too much focus takes us away from innovation. Too much focus can give our competitors the upper-hand. Too much focus can make us irrelevant.
Don’t get me wrong, focused execution is critical. Every organization, it’s stakeholders and employees need to be focused on the goal. THE GOAL. Not the task. The goal. We also need to be distracted by innovative thought, entrepreneurial ideas and the desire to do and be better than the past.