If Everything is Important, Then Nothing Is

"If everything is important, then nothing is." ― Patrick Lencioni

It seems like every two weeks I end up shifting my focus of self-study from one area to another. One day I'll develop an intense interest in Collective Intelligence, work on it for a little bit and then move on to something else completely unrelated. I don't do this because I get bored with a particular topic, rather I end up getting distracted by some other shiny new idea and immediately jump ship to go work on it.

The same method of thinking can be observed in the business world as well. The engineering group may want to increase resources in order to develop better technology while the marketing group may want to use those same resources to attract more customers. Meanwhile, there are the finance, operations, sales, and customer support groups with their own sets of priorities and goals. If everyone's priorities are treated equally then creating any sort of meaningful goals around growth, revenue, etc. will ultimately implode under the sheer weight of the demands of each group or become so meaningless that their benefits would be negligible even if each goal was achieved.

We all do this more often than we'd care to admit and I think it's because we don't prioritize correctly. When we are setting goals for ourselves or our organization we typically list out all of the things we want to get better at and stop there. Sure, we may start working on the first item on the list that we feel is most important at the time but since that priority was set arbitrarily on a hunch, we will end up dropping it next week/month for something that we feel is more important.

I think there is a relatively simple solution to this problem. First, we must come to the realization that if everything is important, then nothing is and prioritize accordingly. Once we can get past this notion, we can gain some clarity on what exactly we should be working on. After all, do I really need to know about Collective Intelligence right now, or would it make more sense for me to spend my time improving my public speaking skills? Or, does the company need to focus on attracting new customers when they are already having trouble satisfying their existing ones?

Achieving a single goal is difficult enough as it is, find the one that makes the most sense and go after it with 100% of your effort. Once you succeed there, move on to the next one. Rinse and repeat.

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What do you think?