Last week, I attended a meeting with Reshan Richards. During the meeting, we — the group — got stuck twice.
Both times, Reshan helped us to get unstuck by offering a very simple, very deft nudge. He suggested that maybe we were using the wrong name for the problem we were trying to solve.
Once we abandoned the old name for the problem, we found that we weren’t stuck with the same associations, the same ready-made solutions, the same paths. In both cases, we found desirable outcomes.
Though I’m sure Reshan wasn’t deliberately thinking about psychology — he was just being creative and disruptive, as is his instinct — the efficacy of the move he made can be traced to an undoing of the “anchoring effect.”
In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains it this way:
[The anchoring effect] occurs when people consider a particular value for an unknown quantity before estimating that quantity. What happens is one of the most reliable and robust results of experimental psychology: the estimates stay close to the number that people considered — hence the image of the anchor. If you are asked whether Gandhi was more than 114 years old when he died you will end up with a much higher estimate of his age at death than you would if the anchoring question referred to death at 35. . . . Any number that you are asked to consider as a possible solution to an estimate problem will induce an anchoring effect. (119 – 120)
Creative and agile leaders, it follows, will be able to spot anchors, understand their effect, and help others to shed them when they establish unhelpful limitations or hinder progress.