One of my favorite summer activities is the food markets that pop up throughout the city. I recently attended one of the largest and the market was bustling with people, smells, and an undeniable laidback summer vibe.
I was surprised to hear how much FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) my friends were experiencing. Most of the conversation centered on how much better markets are in other cities or how a specific dish isn’t as good in an arbitrary comparison. The feeling of FOMO cast a long shadow on an otherwise sunny day.
FOMO taps into the deep human desire to make the best choice possible. FOMO is king in a world where we can easily see endless possibilities through social media and the internet. At the food market, it was a minor annoyance at best. Perhaps I need new friends or new activities.
Within companies, FOMO is disastrous. It burrows into the culture like a virus and derails even the best thought-out strategy. Progress requires the containment of FOMO and individuals need to win the battle against this deep human desire to reach their professional and organizational goals.
The Real Fear Behind FOMO
Companies don’t usually talk about FOMO. Instead, they use phrases such as “shiny object syndrome” and “market expectations.” Google is a great example of how FOMO can creep in. They are constantly releasing new products just to shut them down shortly after. The same idea is revived through multiple iterations and names. Think of Google Wave, Google+, and other equivalents. There’s always something more interesting or exciting—especially in consumer apps. Google’s strategy of capturing as many eyeballs as possible has worked in the past, but the lack of diversification becomes harder to maintain as time goes on. To get other revenue streams off the ground, Google will need to beat back FOMO.
The real fear from FOMO is a lack of progress, a continuation of the status quo and the constant feeling of deja vu. I have worked with companies still working on the same goals from years ago with little progress. They are well versed in the latest technologies and approaches, but FOMO has prevented them from doing better.
Data is a great example. Many companies aim to be data-driven but continue falling for the latest technology. First, it was the power of great dashboards, then it became the magic of AI, and soon, it will be something else. Real progress would come from hiring the right data roles and helping existing people level up their skills. They could still be data-driven even if they never used anything beyond Excel. FOMO prevents companies from making progress on the things that truly matter.
Grass Is Greener Where You Water It
It’s easy to succumb to FOMO. The grass may seem greener for other companies. They are winning awards, smashing their goals, and attracting media attention. However, companies can’t replicate this success while falling prey to FOMO. Instead, they need to focus on their priorities and turn off the outside noise.
If you have ever seen a horse race, you may notice that some horses are wearing blinders. When they are in the middle of the race, horses need to focus on going forward. They have to ignore everything else around them. Companies need more blinders to save them from FOMO.
Feature Image by Nick Fewings