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Fear Of Missing Out: FOMO

by Mark P. McDonald  |  July 13, 2010  |  1 Comment

We all get FOMO from time to time.  The fear of missing out is a constant in today busy and multi-priority world where something new is always coming up.  There is always something starting before you have finished what you are working on now.

FOMO is just like the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Except it’s worse. Seeing the green side of the fence is a form of envy based what we can see on an ongoing basis.  It is situational and positional.

FOMO is transactional.  You fear missing out on an opportunity, a new project, a new responsibility, etc.  The opportunity to miss out exists at a point in time, you have to make a decision, your in or your out, decide as we have to move now.

FOMO causes us to make bad decisions not because we are bad people, but rather that our brains are wired to be tortured by this type of decision.

Brain science and behavioral economics observe that we overestimate the importance or value of loss.  The opportunity lost looms much larger in our mind than it really is.  So our fear of missing out is amplified against the importance of our current commitments.

Social interactions reenforce our thoughts as others tout the new opportunity as the latest, greatest,  what all the cool people are doing.  The social pressures can be enormous and they alone lead us to fight to be seen as part of the new thing, not suck with the old slow project or responsibility.

What we have now is no longer as important as what we could have.  The declining value of current work figures in our personal prioritization and rationalization to make room for the new project.  After all by taking on this new project we are creating more value, right ?


Value comes from completion rather than initiation.

Starting things cost money, consumes resources, locks in strategies, etc.

Starting things leads to activities, but the business needs results.

Its easy to forget this in the face of FOMO.

Next, the symptoms of this condition and it’s cost to the enterprise and to you personally. It’s much bigger than you ever thought.

Category: cio  strategic-planning  

Tags: 2011-planning  cio-leadership  it-strategy  leadership  strategy-and-planning  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.

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