Rubbernecking

Is there anything more frustrating than rubberneckers? You know who I mean. Drivers who slow down to gawk at an accident thereby causing traffic jams behind them. Make a note: they’re one of my pet peeves. They’re also something from which we can take a business thought.

Wikipedia reminds us that according to a 2003 study, rubbernecking was the cause of 16 percent of distraction-related traffic accidents. I’m sure you’ve had that sinking feeling when someone behind you isn’t paying close attention to the fact that an otherwise wide open lane has come to a screeching halt.  Maybe it’s due to someone changing a tire on the other side of the road and a police car has pulled in behind them to flash lights for safety. More than once I’ve heard the screech of tires as the dolt behind me is trying to slow down and waited for impact.  You wish the cop would deploy a massive screen, upon which is written “nothing to see here – move along.”

I’ve never understood the phenomenon, either in a car or in business.  It manifests itself in a couple of ways off the road.  First are those companies and brands that try to create a rubbernecking situation where they do something to cause partners and/or consumers to slow down and gawk.  One could argue that, in fact, the old-school way of thinking about marketing was exactly that.  Think about your response on the road, however.  How angry are you when you discover that there is NOTHING causing the situation that’s keeping you from getting where you want to go?  Our messaging needs to add value not be a distraction.

The other way rubbernecking impacts business is when we allow our efforts to get distracted by something going on elsewhere.  Maybe you are spending time rubbernecking what your coworkers or other departments are doing.  Slowing down to look at the next new thing probably is just keeping us from the destination we’ve chosen.  Most of the time there is nothing to see.  Obviously I don’t mean we ought to operate in vacuums.  We can’t let situational awareness become a distraction what brings our movement to a crawl.

Don’t rubberneck in your car.  It’s even worse in your business life.  That’s my take.  Yours?

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