Avoid Being Anchored by Your Own Opinion

May 21, 2010

Have you ever developed a passion for an idea as a result of considerable time and effort expended in research and thought on your part? Did your research and thinking lead you to a firm, unshakeable conclusion? Does your routine research and understanding of your profession provide you with solid opinions about how things should be done? Does your hard-earned insight occasionally blind you to alternative ways of thinking?

Guilty as charged.

You might work very hard at keeping current and forming opinions on various topics, but others will not have your perspective. And they won’t enjoy dealing with someone that they perceive to be so opinionated that alternatives aren’t at least explored and considered.

It is always good to keep an open mind and explore options, particlularly during the decision-making process. There is a common problem with us humans, and that is to focus too heavily on one piece of information during our decision-making process. This is known as anchoring.

If you place too much importance on one aspect, the anchor becomes “set,” and you will find it difficult to mentally shift away from your perception. This becomes more difficult when emotions are engaged – you feel excited and energized because you’ve had that inspirational flash of insight, and before you realize it, you’ve dropped your anchor and your ship isn’t going to be moved, at least not easily.

There is a difficult balance to maintain here. Productive workplaces are filled with people who have strong opinions. You certainly don’t want to have a bunch of people walking around without opinions – talk about a real lack of engagement! The trick is to adopt Paul Saffo’s mantra of having “strong opinions, weakly held.”

Paul’s advice: “Allow your intuition to guide you to a conclusion, no matter how imperfect – this is the ‘strong opinion’ part. Then – and this is the ‘weakly held’ part – prove yourself wrong. Engage in creative doubt.”

Strong opinions are healthy, and we should all develop the best possible reasoning and evidence to support that reasoning. Just don’t too attached to what you believe, because that attachment will undermine your ability to acknowledge additional evidence that is in conflict with your opinion.