Hyperfocus is when your concentration on a topic or task is narrowed to a very fine point. Some hyperfocus is great. It can lead to a more efficient process or a deep, thorough analysis of a difficult topic. But too much hyperfocus can lead to myopia (the inability to see distant objects) and poor decision making (based upon not enough breadth of analysis).
Hyperfocus can be an indicator of ADHD and autism, but leaders don’t have to be autistic or have ADHD to be hyperfocused, of course. Some just get too attached to a position or a particular set of data. They can mislead themselves and others in the process, and the results can be extremely damaging to their reputations and bottom lines.
Reduce Inventory at all Costs
A former executive with a global aerospace division shared with me the following story of hyperfocus. The board and CEO of his company were so hyperfocused on keeping inventory low for the sake of efficiency that they didn’t have enough engines available for all their private jets. They wound up having to explain to a high-profile client why his jet had no engine and would, therefore, not be able to take him on his three-week vacation. This embarrassment helped the board and CEO see the perils of their hyperfocus and approve a longstanding inventory request for more engines.
Hyperfocus–The Coach Check
Rarely a month goes by when our executive coaches do not ward off hyperfocus-related trouble. In playing devil’s advocate, we save our clients and their companies a lot of money, headaches, and embarrassment. These savings don’t always show up on balance sheets because they’re decisions that were avoided, not made. Human resource managers might not see and fully appreciate these savings, but our clients do. They appreciate how we test the depth and breadth of their focus, and walk through the potential consequences of decisions they would like to make. Our clients also appreciate the resistance we offer because their team members are often unwilling or afraid to provide it. And because they don’t like to look foolish.