The Shiny Object Syndrome

Product Business

I Bet You've Experienced The Shiny Object Syndrome

When I was a kid, I used to really (I mean really) like to build Lego stuff. It didn't matter if it was a specific model, or to create my own spaceship. As I got older, I shifted from being creative to wanting the next model to build it. And slowly, my pleasure shifted from playing and building to finishing a build. I wanted the result of the work, more than enjoying the work.

Thus began the dynamic that we now call “shiny object syndrome.” Maybe you've never heard of it. But if you have, you've also likely experienced it. It's the desire to experience (or get your hands on) the next new thing, rather than enjoying what you have already.

Today I'm not telling you that the shiny object syndrome is bad or wrong. But I'm telling you that it exists and that I've experienced it myself – first as a kid with Lego toys, and later in technology.

Like I said, you have likely already experienced it as well and don't need me to tell you that it exists.

But here's my question for you.

Are You a Product Developer Fighting Shiny Object Syndrome?

I run the team at LearnDash and you know what one of our biggest challenges is? It's that we've been around forever. So even people who use the product are looking around at all the new stuff.

  • Thrivecart is adding courses.
  • Samcart is adding courses.
  • Kajabi offers courses.
  • Podia offers courses (and now community).

Most of these solutions didn't exist when a customer chose LearnDash. Some are really new. And as new items, they trigger the shiny object syndrome.

We deal with it all the time. Most of the time, it comes in the form of, “the grass is likely greener over there because I've never heard of it; it's new; it probably does newer cooler stuff.”

Does this sound familiar to you? Are you competing with newer options? Is there anything you can do?

Can We Use It to Our Own Benefit?

For the last few weeks I've been pondering this question. If we know that shiny object syndrome is a thing, if we know it's something our customers and prospects are experiencing, and we know that it motivates people – is there some healthy and honest way we can leverage this to our own advantage?

About a week ago, I landed on my answer. I believe there is a way to leverage shiny object syndrome with integrity.

You see, I don't think it means we have to relaunch our product under a new name. I don't think it means we have to do some crazy marketing campaign that tricks people. I don't think we have to create a brand new version of our product (though as a product person, that's always a tempting – and wrong – idea that always calls out to me).

Instead, I think we have to do two things simultaneously.

How To Leverage Shiny Object Syndrome

The first thing we have to do is to keep the core of what we do going strong. You can't take your eyes off the ball. If you pivot to building, creating, or sharing something new, the risk is that people think you've stopped investing in the core value that you've been known for. This is a mistake I see happen a lot. So no matter what I tell you as the second step, you can't skip the first step.

But once you keep focused on investing in iterating and making your existing offering better every day, you still need to do something else. Something to attract both your existing base and new customers.

The second thing you have to do is create an ancillary offering – preferably an accelerator. I believe the thing that entices us about a shiny object is that:

  • It's new
  • We assume it will help us better
  • We assume it will help us reach our goals faster

Think about how you think about new things. Isn't that the case? If you saw something new that would make things worse or make you reach your goals slower, would it entice you? I'm guessing it wouldn't.

So we need to create something new – but it doesn't have to be the product. It can be an ancillary offering. Something close and connected to our original product.

But it also has to be an accelerator. Something that helps our current and prospective customers reach their goals better and faster.

Since this isn't the LearnDash blog, I won't bore you with what we are planning. We'll announce that over on that site soon enough.

But for those of you building your own products, I hope this line of thinking challenges you. And tomorrow I'll write more about what an accelerator looks like.

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