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21 Feb 2019
Can It Be Good To Be Wrong?
It’s not easy to be wrong, but it’s even harder to realise you’re wrong, in the first place. Human beings are hard-wired to avoid being wrong. That doesn’t mean we somehow automatically find the right answers; it means once we’ve decided on an answer our brains do everything they can to convince us it’s correct. We hold onto our answers as hard as we can, whether they’re right or wrong. When we share an article on Facebook we don’t care if it’s true, we care that it supports or proves our point. But can it be good for you to be wrong?
Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and author of the new book Questions are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life thinks so.
“We’re deeply connected to answers being more important than questions,” he says. “We get advanced and promoted by having the right answers. Schools are especially exceptional at shutting down questions, telling kids and young adults that the way to get ahead here is by rapidly spitting back the right answers.”
I think this is quite a powerful idea. The book and the stuff that’s available online mostly focus on learning to recognise and accept when we’re wrong. That’s a difficult thing to learn, but it’s good for business.
As a leader, it can sometimes feel like you’re expected to have all the answers. Don’t fall into that trap. We think people expect answers, but they aren’t actually expecting certainty. Direct answers are the easiest route to certainty, and you know what they say about easy things.
The benefits of being able to be wrong are huge. Not just personally but it allows you to take risks, and that’s how businesses succeed. If you don’t allow yourself to be wrong, you won’t try new things and your business will be stale.
Being wrong is humiliating and embarrassing, but it can also be liberating and a chance for growth. It isn’t easy. Hal Gregersen suggests people practise being wrong. Try a new skill. Try to understand something you don’t agree with. I promise it’ll be good for business.
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