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The Einstellung Effect

blinders_on.jpgThe Einstellung Effect refers to the human tendency to repeat a known solution, even if it no longer is the optimium solution. It represents the negative value of experience. The Einstellung Effect kicks in when new solutions have developed or become available but we do not look for them or adopt them even if we know of them. This can happen because we believe we already know the best solution, hence do not fully evaluate the new ways. Or simply because we are set in our ways and do not wish to undertake the “pain” of learning new ways unless forced to by others or market events.

The Einstellung Effect reflects a tendency to rigidity in human thought, to the supposed inflexibity of experts, to get ego invested in certain methodologies. Perhaps trying new solutions is to implicitly admit the old solutions were wrong or less than optimal.

Einstellung literally means “attitude” in German and may be thought of as a mindset:

mind·set or mind-set (noun):

1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.

2. An inclination or a habit.

There are three ways to deal with the Einstellung Effect:

1. Take a break, the longer the break the better. Try sleeping on it.

2. Redefining the problem frequently helps breaks mental log jams.

3. Bring in outsiders, people with fresh perspectives. (Be careful not to “contaminate” them with your mindset. Do not define the issue as unsolvable or even difficult. Consider not telling them what has been tried in the past, allowing them to keep as much of a beginner’s mind as possible.)

Experience is certainly extremely valuable. Yet it is important to realize that the value of experience has its limits and its limitations. Occasionally “a child shall lead them” and the fresh perspective provided from the “mouths of babes and sucklings” can add real value. Wisdom lies in knowing when, and having the awareness and humility to listen and remain open.

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