Friday, October 4, 2013

The Dangers of Only Looking Ahead

As an outdoors runner, I learned very quickly that it’s dangerous to only look ahead.  In the hour or so of my daily pavement bashing, I try to solve the world’s problems, plan out my day and tackle a few challenges looming at the office – all in my head.  In this state it’s easy to lose myself and only see what’s right in front of me. Doing that prevents me from seeing what’s coming up behind – or from the left or right. 
Simply put, if I don’t look around while I’m running, I could be dead.

Sadly, this form of myopia is something I’m seeing more and more. Today’s drivers, in their rush to get to work -or wherever else they’re going - no longer look around at a STOP sign. They might look one way or another. But rarely do they scan the entire road. Instead, motorists are distracted, on the phone and not paying attention. If it wasn’t for me paying attention to their driving, it’s very likely I’d be dead.

But you know, it’s not just on the roads that this is happening. I’m seeing the same tunnel vision in our PR profession where, if something isn’t obvious or right in front of someone’s nose, they don’t bother to look around for either a solution or come up with an answer by themselves. Fueled by a society where we’re plugged into dozens of alerts, multiple screens and a barrage of information being pushed and spoon fed to us every second, we’ve stopped seeing the big picture. We’re cherry picking our news, biting on teeny snippets of information that inform all our knowledge and only looking at what’s directly in front of us.

For more on Multitasking, social media, and distraction, check out  Journalist's Resource.

The danger of doing this is that we’re missing out on everything else. In the PR profession, not having a complete picture of what’s happening ‘all around’ a client’s business or their industry puts us at a significant disadvantage. We’re not able to make intelligent decisions because we simply don’t know what else is going on that could impact their business or our campaign.

So the next time you come to a STOP sign, don’t just look ahead. Take a moment to look all around.  Yes, it could add another 5 seconds to your commute, but you might see something you didn’t know was there. You could learn something new or revisit something you had forgotten, like what to do at traffic signs.

For more on traffic signs, especially for those friendly Florida drivers, refresh your memory here.

Or you could be encouraged by someone, like I was, to write about your experience.  We live in a distracted world that will only become more distracting. As PR professionals, our ability to have both a razor-sharp focus and see everything around us – not just what’s in front – will be the differentiator between great communicators and mediocre ones who stop short of true inspiration.

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