Are You Ready for Wrong?

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Nobody likes to be wrong. Guys have an especially hard time with failure. My wife knows me well enough now that, when she asks me about something and I start an answer, about 80% of the time she can tell if I’m just piecing together something from opinions, random thought, and floating bits of semi-related rubbish in my head (what guy doesn’t want to the The Answer Man?…) rather than an ACTUAL answer. While “getting caught” this way in a personal discussion is embarrassing, it is REALLY not a great way to approach business decisions, regardless of their size.

There has been a lot of digital ink spilled over the past years about the importance of Failure in Business. Most everyone gives it some level of lip service, but when it comes right down to failing, the shivers and the pointing fingers/assigning blame begin, and the lessons that can be learned are muddled or lost. As human as it is to make mistakes, being wrong in public is still a key source of shame….so we avoid it or ignore it at all costs. Sadly, even at the cost of figuring out what can be learned and applied to the program, process, product or relationship.

In her book Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz writes, “To err is to wander and wandering is the way we discover the world and lost in thought it is the also the way we discover ourselves….Our relationship with certainty is complicated; it’s not just about rational thinking, but involves our emotions and impacts our identity…If you really want to be right (or at least improve the odds of being right), you have to start by acknowledging your fallibility, deliberately seeking out your mistakes, and figuring out what caused you to make them.” 
There are several interesting thoughts here:
  • Imagine if you were almost never wrong. How would you work through a mistake, when it happened to you? Would you EVER be able to learn anything new if your path was smooth? Wouldn’t you just keep doing the same things over and over again because “it’s always worked that way”? How effective is THAT for the growth of your business?
  • Is certainty really just a disbelieving fear of uncertainty? How safe is that for your business, given the fact that you actually have little to no control over the things that happen? Disbelief and avoidance only make it more likely you will crash later.
  • Acknowledging fallibility is one thing. Facing it in the wreckage of a business calamity is another. If you’re not seeking out the lessons to be learned in the everyday challenges and opportunities, how will you cope when the “balloon goes up” and the existential catastrophe lands!? Learn to deal with the little things that foul the works to learn how to deal with the Big Bombs.
  • If you ARE deliberately seeking out your mistakes, is that so you can just avoid them, or so you can dig into the Why and How? It can be quite painful to poke around in the things you’ve messed up (a bit like pouring salt on a wound….), but unless you uncover the value of the failure, what’s the point?
Don’t AIM to be wrong, but don’t let your ego get all wound up in it either. There’s tremendous value buried in the wreckage of your mistake (think of it as recovering the Black Box for analysis!). Don’t let this chance for discovery and inspiration be wasted.

Be Ready for Wrong!


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