Think

Regressing to the mean.

Think - 04 Mar 2017

Regressing to the mean is a term I’ve deliberated and slowly started to reflect on. I believe it was coined by the leading Behavioural Economist, Daniel Kahneman Nobel Prize winning book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

It’s meaning describes a profound idea expressed by human nature diverting back to average when surrounded by environmental influences. Why we do this, well, that a complex discussion. To explain the idea further, regressing to the mean can be the sole debilitating factor causing ideas and your own work not to flourish.

Projects, ideas, teams and organisations often set out with a clear idea - often to solve a complex problem with the profanity of a simple solution that’s packed with efficiencies and effectiveness. We set our goals high, often dreaming of creating something remarkable. Then, bit by bit, micro decisions are made and regression starts to slip in. These moments may be comprised of one or many influencers; like costs or time affecting quality, committees or unions enforcing bureaucracy, or even human laziness affecting output.

I see regression It happening all around me; in the workplace and at individual and cultural levels. It’s a common human trait that we’ll never shake. Regression to the mean is wired deep into our human psychology, where we naturally gravitate to the short-tee, easy dopamine hit. The root of the issue is also hard to spot, and as individuals we don’t believe we’re a causing factor.

Like many ideas & theories which stem from higher intelligence, having a grounded and holistic sense of the landscape is often the only way to counter the issue. There is no quick fix, no easy way out - the solution is in being reflective of ones self and the teas and people around us to spot regression taking hold.

In your busy day, try to take a step (or two/three) back from time-to-time, giving yourself a chance to reflect on the task, project or goal on hand. As a first step, try to reflect on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, further understand why it’s significant and why it matters to people.
The second, third and fourth steps are all manifest in repetition - create small feedback loops that enable constant reflection and review to help guide the execution of your work to the desired remarkable end point.