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Navigating Shiny Object Syndrome: A Strategic Guide for Association Executives


Daniel Elacqua


In the ever-evolving landscape of association management, executives are continually bombarded with new trends, technologies, and strategies vying for their attention. While innovation is essential for growth, the allure of these "shiny objects" can lead to a common pitfall known as Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS). This phenomenon occurs when organizations lose sight of their goals become distracted by the latest trends, diverting resources and attention away from their core mission and strategic objectives.

Where do Shiny Objects come from?

Shiny objects can originate from staff members, the board of directors, or external influencers. Staff may propose new ideas driven by innovation or external trends, but it's crucial to align them with the association's mission and strategic goals. Boards, while essential in setting direction, may suggest initiatives that diverge from priorities due to external pressures or personal interests. Even if a shiny object originates from the board, it's vital to ensure alignment with long-term strategy. External influencers, such as industry experts or consultants, may introduce ideas, but their relevance must be carefully evaluated within the association's context. Prioritize initiatives that directly contribute to the association's mission and strategic priorities.

Navigating Shiny Object Syndrome

As association executives, it's crucial to recognize the signs of Shiny Object Syndrome and develop strategies to mitigate its impact on organizational success. Here's how to navigate this challenge effectively:

Define Your Mission and Goals: Before jumping on the bandwagon of every new trend, take a step back and reaffirm your association's mission and strategic goals. Evaluate whether the shiny object aligns with your overarching objectives or if it's merely a distraction. By staying true to your mission, you can prioritize initiatives that directly contribute to your association's long-term success.  

Evaluate Impact and ROI: Conduct a thorough analysis of the potential impact and return on investment (ROI) of pursuing a shiny object. Consider factors such as cost, resource allocation, and projected outcomes. Assess whether the shiny object addresses a genuine need within your association or if it's a fleeting trend that will soon lose its luster. Make data-driven decisions to ensure that your investments generate tangible benefits for your organization.

Focus on Core Competencies: Resist the temptation to chase after every shiny object that comes your way. Instead, focus on leveraging your association's core competencies and strengths. Identify areas where you excel and concentrate your efforts on initiatives that enhance your competitive advantage. By staying focused on what you do best, you can maximize your impact and achieve sustainable growth.

Establish Clear Priorities: Develop a strategic roadmap that outlines your association's priorities and initiatives. Clearly communicate these priorities to your team, emphasizing the importance of staying aligned with the overarching strategy. When evaluating new opportunities, refer back to your strategic roadmap to assess whether they align with your established priorities. This disciplined approach will help you stay on course and avoid succumbing to shiny object syndrome.

Embrace Strategic Innovation: While it's essential to remain focused on your core mission, don't shy away from strategic innovation. Keep an eye on emerging trends and technologies that have the potential to advance your association's goals. However, approach innovation strategically by assessing its relevance and feasibility within the context of your organization. By embracing strategic innovation, you can adapt to changing landscapes while staying true to your mission.

Cultivate a Culture of Discernment: Foster a culture within your association that encourages critical thinking and discernment. Empower your team to question the validity and impact of shiny objects, promoting thoughtful decision-making based on evidence and analysis. By cultivating a culture of discernment, you can mitigate the risk of succumbing to shiny object syndrome and ensure that your resources are allocated effectively.

The Risks of Shiny Object Syndrome

Falling prey to Shiny Object Syndrome can introduce significant risks to an association. Constantly changing goals and objectives can distract from making progress on the goals that matter most. This can lead to a fragmented approach to strategy implementation and a lack of meaningful impact. Moreover, chasing after every new trend or idea without careful evaluation can result in wasted resources and missed opportunities to invest in initiatives that align closely with the association's mission and long-term vision. By failing to navigate Shiny Object Syndrome properly, associations risk losing focus, diluting their impact, and falling short of their strategic objectives. It's essential to maintain clarity and discipline in decision-making to avoid these pitfalls and steer the association toward sustained success.


Shiny Object Syndrome poses a significant challenge for association executives, but with a strategic approach, it can be overcome. By staying true to your mission, evaluating opportunities thoughtfully, and focusing on core priorities, you can navigate the ever-changing landscape of association management with confidence and clarity. Recognizing the signs of Shiny Object Syndrome is crucial for maintaining organizational success. By defining your mission and goals, evaluating the impact and ROI of potential initiatives, and focusing on your core competencies, you can ensure that your resources are allocated effectively. 

Establishing clear priorities and embracing strategic innovation while cultivating a culture of discernment among your team are essential steps toward mitigating the risks associated with shiny objects. Remember, the key to success lies in strategic decision-making and disciplined execution. With these strategies in place, you can steer your association toward sustained success while avoiding the pitfalls of Shiny Object Syndrome.

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