Are You “Locked in”?

When you do project work, like I do, you get sensitized to whether people are “locked in”. By that I mean are they invested in a position or idea that they need to defend. That is not bad in itself, but when you are “playing defense”, you spare less conscious thought on “playing offense”.

The odd thing is that people tend not to notice whether they are playing defense or offense. They notice instead how challenging it is to do what is on their agenda. The react to the difficulty level and focus on it without questioning whether they are doing it for defensive or offensive reasons.

Kahneman made a brilliant observation about this. In general, we are much more inclined to defend what we have in hand than to risk it for bigger returns. In other words, we are more ready to play defense than offense.

You might check out this interesting article about the competition between two firms: Netflix and HBO. The point is that HBO has trapped itself into a defensive position. HBO has good reasons for seeing things this way. But in the long run, we don’t expect this to produce “winning”. It is a short run play.


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