Are You Too Focused?


Running a profitable business requires focus. As an entrepreneur, you become distracted by a multitude of urgent issues. You are constantly reminded to focus on the important and not the seemingly urgent. We all fail at this to varying degrees and strive to become better focused on the important long-term goals of our organization.


I challenge you to think about focus differently. Think of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) as the opposite of focus. ADD is considered a clinical condition based on diagnosis and subject to pharmaceutical treatment. I prefer to think of it as a trait we all have to varying degrees.


On the surface, focus is a good trait and ADD is a bad trait. An ADD diagnosis is based, at least in part, on a lack of focus – jumping from one item of interest to another. Often this results in difficulty completing tasks in a timely manner. Those diagnosed with ADD are described as easily distracted. No surprise that we typically think this is a bad trait


Situational awareness is a critical military skill. It requires avoiding focus and taking in the entirety of the environment. Focusing intensely on a known, expected threat exposes one to a myriad of other threats. In fact, focus distracts from learning new information in a dangerous environment. If we think of situational awareness as a manifestation of ADD, it can clearly be a good trait.


Business is a dangerous environment. Situational awareness is critical on both the strategic and tactical levels. The ADD trait has business value.


A business is may be focused on a significant product improvement, devoting its most talented people to the effort. If a competitor uses technology to leapfrog the market (think Netflix vs Blockbuster), that focus can precipitate disaster. The focus trait is not always a positive.


Some traits are more useful than others but most every trait can become valuable in certain situations. Any trait that we possess to any degree can be consciously called upon (and most of us possess all traits, even if to a small extent). As a CEO one must recognize this in two ways:


  • Be able to call on the trait appropriate to the situation.
  • Build a team with a diversity of traits that you can deploy as needed.