Negative Target Fixation and Saturation

Miko Matsumura last night mentioned an important concept I hadn't heard before: negative target fixation. Here's an explanation of the term I found on the web (excerpted from deep within this "Miracle Zone" page):
An interesting illustration of the fact that focused attention creates results consistent with that focus of attention is found in a research study that was done to determine the cause of airplane crashes. The study found that 70 per cent of airplane crashes could have been avoided; that is, they were due to pilot error. The study also found that in those crashes that resulted from pilot error, about 70 percent of the pilots had been focusing on where they did not want to land--not on where they wanted to land. For example, they were focusing their attention on a tree or on the roof of a building that was in the way of where they wanted to make their emergency landing, rather than on the space where they wanted to land. The researchers termed this phenomenon �negative target fixation�. The study points out that by focusing on what we do not want to occur, there is a strong tendency to produce the very thing we are trying to avoid.
In the context of entrepreneurship and other endeavors, negative target fixation highlights the danger in concentrating on what you most fear happening, and thus helping make exactly that happen, instead of the range of other possible outcomes.

I think there's another somewhat related phenomenon in the current tech business doldrums, a sort of negative target saturation. Over the past couple of years, we've been treated on a grand scale to a public lesson about the many hundreds or even thousands of different ways a company, product, or strategy can fail. These failures have affected companies young and old, rich and poor, small and large, experienced and inexperienced, dynamic and static. There are so many failures, top-of-mind, that anything now coming along can be quickly associated with multiple, "oh, that's like X, and X blew it" precursors. This leads to a "white-out" in people's ability to discriminate between good and bad courses of action. To extend the flying analogy above -- this negative target saturation doesn't so much lead to self-fulfilling crashes, as much as it deters takeoffs altogether. The airport is fogged-in.

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