Shiny Object Syndrome – A CEOs Friend or Foe?

Let’s talk about shiny objects…those sparkling, distracting, potentially earth-shattering ideas that the idea guru in your company is always having.

CEOs tend to handle these in one of two ways:

  1. Allow the idea guru to run rampant through the company, corralling resources whenever an idea sparks. This leads to confusion and detours. On the plus side it definitely makes life exciting.
  2. Contain the idea guru. Keep faithfully to plan, and politely appease (aka relentlessly frustrate) your idea guru by not taking shiny penny ideas seriously.

Neither of these paths will lead you to your greatest success.

I recently met Matt Kuttler at a conference and this is a man who knows how to handle shiny objects syndrome. He’s founded and sold two successful companies and now advises leadership teams.

Matt had a business partner, Dave, who was a consummate idea guy…shiny objects flew left, right and centre. Matt, a pragmatic finance and operations mind, needed a way to capture his partner’s visionary sparks while keeping their team on task.

And so The Shiny Objects List was born. Matt created an Excel spreadsheet specifically for Dave’s new ideas. Whenever lightning struck, Dave added a thought to the list.

Every month the company had a Shiny Objects meeting. The team would review every idea and decide if it would be assigned to someone to replace an existing project.

Matt solved an age-old problem with his Shiny Objects List. He figured out how to keep his team focused without stifling the company visionary.


In my mind, every CEO needs a Shiny Objects List pronto. Just make sure you also commit to the meetings as well, or it’s all for naught.