My daughter is talk of the classroom.

Thanks to my wife’s inspired choice of birthday party venue, the “Rock & Bowl”, ten pin bowling & karaoke celebration has momentarily elevated my daughter to celebrity status. A small price to pay for what was possible the most strenuous & stressful two hours of my life!

School policy is that all members of the class have to be invited. It’s probably a sensible choice that prevents anyone from feeling like they are missing out. Though it seemed far from sensible when repeatedly trying to stop 20 kids from dropping 16lb bowling balls on their feet, or listening to the Oscar winning “Let it Go” being brutally massacred on the microphone.

Missing out on exciting stuff is clearly something nobody wants to do. That’s probably true of any person at any age. It’s where things happen, where fun is had, where things are learned. It’s the stuff that matters.

Which loosely segues into point of this Forge blog.

There is a big difference between missing out on “exciting stuff” & missing out on just “stuff”. Missing out on just “stuff” is somewhat of a modern concern. It has a modern acronym of course.

FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out is a form of social anxiety — a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.

A study by Andrew Przybylski¹ found that the condition was most common in those who had unsatisfied psychological needs such as wanting to be loved and respected – a behavior driven by the need to stoke the ego. Often creating a superficial feel-good factor masking a deeper absence of meaning.

We increasingly see a form of this anxiety cropping up in businesses.

The FOMO company is one that has become terrified there is some piece of information or data they’re not gathering that is of monumental importance. As such they gather every form of tracker, panel data or reporting mechanism on their brand or business. They commission project after project to look at the same thing. This fear makes them spend more, move slowly and take fewer decisions.

You could rightly argue that all businesses should have some fear of missing out on big opportunities. Or rather, they should be excited to find them and exploit them.

So technically, FOMI – Fear Of Missing Information – could be a more accurate acronym to describe this condition of insatiable need for research.

Again, you could possibly argue that this is a good thing? Surely the business with the most information is at a competitive advantage?

At the Forge we believe it is the businesses with the most insight rather than information that has competitive advantage. And further, FOMI is a debilitating condition.

Insight is not a quantity game it is a quality game. Quality of the information gathered through research, and more importantly the quality of the analysis applied to that information. So many of our clients have wonderfully rich sources of information, more often than not, well capable of providing the answers to any business challenge. Provided time is spent to step back and focus on the WHY & HOW rather than the WHAT.

By all means do further research if it is needed but make sure it is incremental to our understanding. Simply gathering more information without connecting & sweating what you have is inefficient and ineffective.

We recently worked on a project with over 100 documents dedicated to WHAT a competitor was doing and not a single one exploring why they were doing it.

Too much information can get in the way of insight. It swamps people with overwhelming & unnecessary detail leaving them paralysed or, worse still, simply looking for evidence to support their own hunches inducing analysis issues such as confirmation bias.

Too much information can also get in the way of action.

An interesting alternative definition of FOMI from the Urban Dictionary is Figment Of My Imagination. A scenario we would characterize by the belief that ‘one more piece of research will give us the definitive answer we seek’.  This is does not happen. This is in fact the time to make a decision, as elegantly described by David Ogilvy.

“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination”

We think the treatment for FOMI could be the embracement of an emerging trend JOMO – The Joy of Missing Out

JOMO is described in the Huffington Post as “a rebellion against saying yes to everything, it’s about giving yourself the space to think and experience things without freaking out about what you ‘should’ be doing instead” It’s about creating meaning for yourself by taking the time to step back and reflect.

“People paying more attention to what they engage in and who they engage with, what they eat and how they spend their time in general. It reflects a massive rise in mindfulness.”

What’s interesting for us is that JOMO isn’t actually about missing out. It’s about knowing what’s important. It’s about applying thought to identify the stuff that matters & making the choice to focus on the things that will make a genuine difference to you. It’s the Joy Of Knowing What’s Important – JOKWI

In a business context we believe JOKWI has several implications.

We should be seriously challenging ourselves as to what type of research genuinely adds insight and value.

We should not simply be just ‘doing’ research but more thoughtfully interrogating where the value comes from and & how can we get more from it.

We should take the time to step back from information & ask how approached in a different way, or with different questions could it be made more powerful.

And most importantly? It reaffirms the simple but key question that should be at the heart of all our research – WHY? If you are clear on the Why, the What will follow.

¹Przybylski, A.K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C.R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1841-1848.

With thanks to Sander for the image

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