42nd Street Company (#42stc)

The soup stone effect

By on October 26, 2013

I first heard the story of the soup stone in an English class. The story as I recall it goes like this. A vagabond is walking on the roads. He starts to feel hungry and approaches approaches kitchen on a farm. When the housewife opens, the vagabond tells her that he has a stone on which he can cook the most wonderfull soup. The lady is skeptic, but allows him the benefit of the doubt …

Then the Vagabond asks: “Would it happen that you had a little meat left for the soup?” … etc etc…

The point is, that it’s not so much of a mystery that you can cook a wonderful soup, if you are granted all the best ingredients.

If you look around you can easily see the “soop stone effect”. Potential cases include:

  • The tool to solve all your problems
  • A new technique that seem to do miracles

The problem with the soup stone effect is that it blurs your common sense. You really want to believe that the soup stone is doing the job, but one day you are bound to wake up and realize that there was more to it.

In the everyday work situation we have many problems, that if solved, would make life easier. We also have many unexplored opportunities that do not cover any current problem, but if explored right could also make life easier.

This is your hidden resource pool that the soup stone effect takes it’s energy from.

Once you see a soup stone emerging, you need to be alert and check if this is real or if this is covering a yet not fully understood problem or opportunity.

The soup stone effects somehow explain our reaction to something that looks too good to be true. And therefore probably isn’t.

The soup stone effect is mainly a mental thing. It help you understand your own reaction when faced with the challenge of accepting or rejecting great solutions or fantastic opportunities.

Before doing so, see

  • Bull shit
  • Cause – effect – correlation
  • Impact estimation

 

A related topic is the “truth session effect”.

What is the connection to “silver bullet?”

One consequence of the soup stone effect is that you need to be careful if copying “solutions” out of context. When implemented in a new context, the magic might be gone.

I often see the soup stone effect in journal articles, where authors compare a scenario with or without some magic trick. But if you look into it closer, you may find, e.g. that the team using the magic trick was far better motivated, because they were encouraged to prove that the magic trick works – and maybe for that reason made it work!

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Later I have also referred to this as ‘the rule of something’