By Meira Spivak
In the world of endless possibilities, we are often faced with a problem that doesn’t show up as one – that of having too many choices. It seems great at first – 31 flavors of ice cream, 7500 varieties of apples, and an incredible palette of paint colors. But many of us have been faced with decision paralysis, a condition describing the overwhelming feeling one gets when they have too many choices. If you had to choose between chocolate and vanilla, you’ll probably make a decision in 30 seconds or less. But when you are sitting in the ice cream store and looking at so many varieties of tastes and textures, the decision gets harder. Multiply that with real-life choices. When you live in a small neighborhood with one school to choose for your kids, the decision is quick. Move to a larger neighborhood and you’ll need to analyze a spreadsheet to understand the different nuances that each school offers. Have one job offer on the table? – it’s a no-brainer. Have 3 to choose from? – the decision becomes real. Even though a larger array of choices sounds more appealing, it often comes with struggle, analysis and a feeling of unsettlement.
The concept of niching down has a similar sentiment. One wants to reach a broader market and sees the entire world as their future clients. He wants to reach everyone, impact everyone so he broadcasts one message and hopes it will land in the right place. In reality, though, something else happens. The message that is sent is vague. It tries to reach everyone but in fact, it reaches no one. The message is for everyone else, besides for the one it’s intended for. In other words, the message falls to deaf ears.
Imagine that you are a dentist advertising your services in the local paper. Your listing is amongst the other ads and perhaps if someone is searching for a dentist, they will find your ad and contact you. But now imagine you have niched down, and you are no longer a general dentist but a dentist only servicing those with a previous history of crowns. Now you might think you have narrowed yourself down so much that you are limiting your client base. But the truth is that what you have done is clarified for people why they should come to you. So as they are searching the paper they see an ad that reads – Do you have multiple crowns on your teeth? Then you need a dentist who specializes in servicing you! Although many people will gloss over that ad, the ones with multiple crowns will stop and think – ‘hey, I need this dentist. Perhaps I’ve been going to a generic dentist my whole life and I should consider switching’ And he’ll reach out to you. So although you feel that niching down limits your clients, it in fact zooms you into a specific audience, and actually drives targeted business to you.
We have the same experience when trying to innovate. Being told to think outside the box paralyzes us. We know we need to come up with something new but we don’t know what to think about. The possibilities are endless and decision paralysis takes over, despite the fact that we don’t even know what we are deciding between. That’s why thinking inside the box, or niching down to only think about options that are close to home, works. We need to limit our options, to confine them to such a minor focus that we are forced to think creatively.
Many of us walk around with challenges. They might be business-related or interpersonal, but we are all in need of a different way of thinking. We’ve tried different plans of action again and again but we seem to feel stuck, without other alternatives. But there is a better way and I’m here to share it with you. Starting in August, I am running a 6 part course where I will teach you the S.I.T. methodology and the 5 templates of thinking differently. You will emerge with a new mindset, the ability to face challenges square in the eye, and overcome them effectively and efficiently. All the details are at meiraspivak.com and I hope you can join me.
Some will decide to join and some will not. The difference will be seen after the course, by those that emerge stronger, brighter and with more tools on their belt. Feel free to reach out with questions. I can’t wait to meet the group of people who are going to be among the best and the brightest.
Meira Spivak is the director of Oregon NCSY, where over the past 15 years she has been developing educational programming for teens and parents. Meira helps organizations solve strategic problems through her Results-Driven Innovation workshops. Using the Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) method of creativity, Meira can teach anyone how to innovate on demand – after all, creativity is a skill that can be learned.