Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and Bad Product Decisions (Part 2)

Part 2 – Drivers and Motivations

In my previous newsletter, I defined FOMO as the Fear of Missing Out when it applies to specific product decisions. I gave a couple of examples that I’ve heard from various product managers and executives over the years.

So what drives some of these decisions?

As a business, you’re always looking to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition. You want to be seen as the leader in your space as opposed to a follower. I can understand how FOMO can undoubtedly spur and goad startups since they’re trying to survive and beat the 1-in-7 success odds for startup success. But for more established companies, gut decisions have a lot of risk, because they can negatively impact their current portfolio. They can derail the long term strategy that they driving towards.Group Selfie

In observing the motivation for these decisions, I have found that a lot of the drivers stem from emotion and gut reactions. The changing business landscape drives these decisions: 

  • a competitor making an announcement that requires a response from your sales and marketing teams
  • a key player in your space rolling out a new feature or update that you need to support
  • a marquee customer threatening your CEO to churn unless you deliver them a feature or resolve an issue they are immediately facing

Emotional and gut decisions do have a place and time. For a startup, gut decisions are the norm – it’s what most likely got them funded by VCs in the first place. But should gut decisions always be the norm for them?

When people make these decisions, I typically don’t see data and quick analysis. Most often, the use of data and analysis is superficial at best. Does the immediate commitment make sense for the current context? Is it worth doing right now? What are the possible impacts – both negative and positive – that could result? These questions are often not asked, or the answers not necessarily surfaced with the rest of the team. 

For both startups and established companies, are there ways in which you can remove the emotion from the decision? Can you make a better decision without caving into FOMO?

I’ll tackle the answers to these questions in my next newsletter. But for now, do you agree with some of my observations that I’ve listed out? Are there other motivations that you’ve come across? I would love to hear from you and hear about them!

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