‘The Streetlight Effect’: 5 Practical Tips for Leaders

‘A policeman once saw a man who seemed to be searching for something on the ground under a streetlamp in the middle of the dark. So, he asked :

-‘What are you looking for?’

-‘My wallet’, said the man. ‘But I can’t find it.’

-‘Where do you think you dropped it?’

-‘Over there somewhere’, said the man and pointed an area about 30 feet away, on the dark side of the street.

-‘So why are you searching here then?’

-‘This is the only area in which I can see.’

This mechanism of the mind is known -amongst psychologists- as ‘The Streetlight Effect’. According to it, your subconscious mind automatically tends to search for solutions in areas which seem visible & approachable, not necessarily in the areas where the solution is possible to come from.

Here is how you can take it into account in 5 difficult challenges which you may face as a leader of an organization:

  1. When sales drop:

Ask your customers directly, instead of listening to your employees’ explanations or remembering your previous experiences.


  1. When your people are not performing, not growing or seem dissatisfied:

Ask for a 360 feedback to YOU as their leader, instead of just ‘pumping up the volume’ of whatever you already do.


  1. When you face an important business dilemma:

Objectively deep dive in the pros and cons of each alternative based on the current circumstances and on fresh data, instead of considering the result of a past decision in different circumstances.


  1. When you acknowledge a company failure:

Discuss and agree on the practical learnings into the form of a ‘success recipe for the future’, instead of playing the easy ‘blame game’.


  1. When you decide on the company’ s vision, mission or business goals:

Look deep into the company’ s core strengths and senior managers’ 100% commitments, instead of considering vague expectations, general market perceptions or competitors’ claims.