Anchored Decisions and Getting Unstuck

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Anchored Decisions and Getting Unstuck

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Do you make anchored decisions? As people we often consciously or subconsciously make decisions based on data. The data that we develop trust in, belief, and view as reliable might be the exact thing that keeps us stuck.

Anchored decisions

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in a nearby coffee shop that also operates a drive-through service for coffee, doughnuts, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches. While sipping your favorite morning beverage you observe many cars using the drive through service.

Next imagine that a friend enters the same coffee shop where you are sitting. Your friend tells you that the drive through service is jammed with cars every morning and then asks, “Guess how many cars pass through before 10:00 AM?”

Before you can answer, your friend says, “Normally around 350!”

Since you’re business minded (you are, right?) you start thinking about the average purchase per car. You consider a cup of coffee, a doughnut, bagel, or sandwich, some will buy more, some less, and sometimes there is more than one person per car. You establish a simple estimate of $10.00.

The coffee shop opens at 6:00 AM and your friend told you 350 (the anchor) cars pass through. You’ve estimated $10.00 per car and when you do the math you get $3,500.00 of drive through business by 10:00AM. Does this seem reasonable?

Anchored Decisions

How we make decisions, personally or professionally is often impacted by the data set that we observe, read about, or look up on the web. It might also be influenced by word-of-mouth, a sign, or an advertisement. The data might be very accurate or the data might be unreliable.

Imagine the scenario just presented only this time imagine that the real number of cars passing through is closer to 150. So the drive through is only bringing in, on average, around $1,500.00 of revenue during this period of time. This is a significant difference, it is $2,000.00 less!

So what does all of this mean to you?

It’s quite simple actually. As a living breathing, walking, talking, and thinking human being you make anchored decisions. You do it, and I do it, everybody does it.

Anchoring Applied

Imagine you get a new corporate account in your sales job. You look up the history of the account and you discover that last year they purchased $100,000.00 worth of product. What are they going to purchase this year? What is your best guess and you must give an answer.

Chances are good you’ll anchor to that $100k and you might guess $110k, or maybe go big with $125k. You goal becomes to sell them $125k, but perhaps in reality they might have the potential to be a $500k account. You’re going to miss out on a lot of business.

Now imagine this, you hear that the average dinner for two in your hometown costs $45.00, you hear that the average family of four spends $180.00 per week at the local grocery market, and the average price of a new pair of shoes is $75.00.

What will you spend when going out to eat or going shopping? What will you anchor to? Certainly you would likely base your estimates on the averages, and this of course seems reasonable, but what if it isn’t?

Get Unstuck

Anchored decisions often represent the way people (or businesses) become stuck. They limit their thinking, they use the data set, they listen to what others suggest or recommend.

What are the limits for you personally? Are you average, or slightly better? Where do you want to be? What is the data?

If you own a business, what was your revenue last year? What numbers are competitors turning in each year? How much can you sell or how much can you earn?

If you are a supervisor, manager, or other professional that is charged with leading in your organization how are you anchoring your department or team? Are you stuck with the same numbers or other data?

When you consider the anchors we might use, you just might realize how you got stuck.

Get unstuck.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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February 1, 2017at 2:18 pm

Brilliant advice!

Look up the concept of Shoshin. Might find it interesting.

    Dennis Gilbert

    February 1, 2017at 3:45 pm

    Thank you. Shoshin – yes, interesting, beginner’s mind. We often need more of that!

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