The New CIO, Thinking

The power of focus (after you find something to focus on)

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

Focus.  Such a small word but with huge meaning.

In the world of photography, focus can mean the difference between creating a timeless photograph or an out of focus snapshot.

As a baseball player, focus is the difference between striking out and getting on base for the batter…and the difference between striking someone out and getting a homer hit on you as a pitcher.

As a business, focus is the difference between being profitable and going out of business.  Focusing on customers, focusing on a particular segment of the market, focusing on strategy and tactics.

That said, its hard to focus these days.

The Information Explosion and subsequent information overload that has occurred over the last few years is an awesome phenomenon.  This explosion has led to growth and competitive advantage for some,  untold riches for a few and for some, the death of their businesses and livelihoods.

At any moment during the day, you can open up your browser and find more information about a topic than you’d care to really know.  You can open up your employer’s intranet and find out more about your company and coworkers than you’d care to know (wait…you don’t have an intranet with real information on it? Shame on your company!).

This information explosion has had a by-product that most organizations haven’t thoroughly realized.

That by-product?  The obfuscation‘ of focus.

The information explosion has obfuscated focus for many people/organizations by hiding relevant knowledge in irrelevant data and information.

This obfuscation has actually been an advantage for some. There are people that have been able to work through information overload to find those nuggets of knowledge and have built their careers, business and fortunes.   You see these people today building new businesses, designing new operational methods and creating new knowledge…which then leads to more information overload for others.

The key to successfully navigating the murky waters today is the ability to find the right information, analyze that information and then focus on delivery.  Whether as a small business or Fortune 500, the ability to sift through information and focus on the ‘right’ information is key.

Finding the right information is key.  Most organizations and people haven’t figured out how to work through the information overload to find the real, necessary knowledge. Most organizations are still operating under the assumption that their focus and the paradigm created a generation ago still works today. This paradigm has left many organizations stuck in a rut while others blow past them. Its left people stuck in a rut while others blow past them.

Surely these people have been focusing, right?

Surely these organizations have been focusing on being competitive and building strategy, right?

Yes. They’ve been focusing. But…many have focused on the wrong things. They’ve been focusing on the technology,  their competitors or the next great ‘strategy’ rather than on their clients and their employees. Many have focused on growth rather than sustained growth. Many have focused on the next ‘homerun’ rather than just getting on base.

Think about the book (and movie) titled Moneyball (amazon affiliate link) and the Oakland A’s attempt to turn baseball inside/out by focusing on something different.  They stopped focusing on the intangibles and started focusing on tangible assets that can be measured. They changed their mindset and their approach to the game.

Since the Oakland A’s did that…many other teams followed suit – including the Boston Red Sox…and many other organizations.  The Boston Red Sox took the approach popularized by the A’s and won the World Series because they changed their thought process by changing their focus. They were able to work through the obfuscation created by the years of focus on ‘baseball’ and move towards a more refined focus on those things that can be measured and managed.

Focusing is Powerful

Have you ever seen a crack addict?

They are focused.  But…I doubt anyone would call them successful in most measures…but they are focused. Focused on the next ‘rock’ and the next ‘hit’.

That same type of focus is found any many organizations today.  Everyone is focused intently on finding the next ‘hit’ rather than delivering honest value.

Take a step back and rethink your focus.  Are you focused? If so…are you focused on the right things? Do you know what the rights things are?  If you say no to any of these questions…you aren’t alone. Most people will say no to them as well.

To find the right things to focus on, we’ve gotta first wade through the murky waters of information overload to find the right knowledge. Only then can we focus.

And that, my friends, is where I see a real value for IT and the CIO of tomorrow.  

Rather than building ‘more’, designing ‘more’ and developing ‘more’…help the organization focus on the underlying knowledge inherent in the people within the organization.   The successful CIO of tomorrow will be the one that help’s the organization navigate through the information explosion and focus on the important things.

Image Credit: Focus By Michael Dales on flickr

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
View all posts by Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. →
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[…] Today’s IT professional needs to be able to have multiple skills.  But…with that multiple skill set, are we asking these professionals to multitask and de-focus? Will this de-focusing lead to poor performance? Or…will the additional skills that IT pro’s help them work through the information overload and allow them to focus even more? […]


[…] Eric D. Brown shares some great ideas on focus, and focusing on the right things: The power of focus (after you find something to focus on) […]