Can You Make Being Wrong…Right?


Have you ever been wrong? Made a mistake? Screwed up? Flubbed it? Made a mess of things? Stepped in it? [1]


We all have. [2]


Often, people will scramble to hide their mistakes or worse, look you in the eye and tell you it’s not a mistake at all. In their effort to look infallible they come out looking ridiculous. But mistakes and errors are a huge part of the process. And being wrong should be something true leaders can admit to and use to their benefit.


The Myth: Being wrong is the highest offense and punishable by death[3] 

The Reality: Being wrong can often be the right thing for everyone.

Kathryn Schulz, wrote a book all about it called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error and she points out many ways [4] you can use being wrong to your advantage.


From Forbes:

So how do you foster a corporate climate that has a healthy relationship to being wrong? Schulz offers four pointers for executives.


1. Appoint a devil’s advocate. Too much groupthink? No one willing to speak up with dissenting opinions? As a manager, you should “appoint someone you really trust whose job is to argue against you,” says Schulz. “If you’re so respected that no one in your inner circle is willing to say you’re wrong, you need to rethink your internal management structure.”


2. Showcase your commitment to being open about mistakes. If you’re wrong, admit it – and if someone else in your company has made a mistake, don’t attack them for it. “I guarantee you any situation in which you have your wrongness shoved in your face will go very poorly,” says Schulz. “You’ll be disinclined to acknowledge your error, and the most common response is to become defensive and entrench.” Instead, make it clear that everyone is wrong sometimes, and it’s part of a shared responsibility to learn from errors together.


3. Argue against yourself. Make it standard operating procedure – for yourself and your employees – to argue the opposite side of a case, even if you’re convinced you’re right. The research you conduct may help illuminate aspects you’ve been overlooking and encourage you to revise your opinion.


4. Truly listen. When views are polarized, it can be hard for anyone to step back and see another side, much less admit they’re wrong. But listening can defuse that tension, says Schulz: “If you let people talk things through in an environment where they feel they won’t be attacked, a remarkable number will let down their guard.”

Being wrong is not the end of the world. It’s often the start of something much, much better.


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