Are you Prepared to be Wrong?

What if you’re wrong?

What if an idea, approach, solution, thought, or answer you have at this very moment is flat out not right?  What if the thing you’ve done successfully fifty times before in this exact same situation is not the right solution in THIS situation?

How would you know you are wrong?  How would you get another, better solution to appear?  If you knew that there was another approach, would you be willing to admit it?  Would you be willing to let go of what has been successful in the past in order to let this new solution be successful?  Would you be willing to bite your tongue and ask questions to understand rather than behaving in a way that proves you are right?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that has seen 2 “rights” becoming very wrong.

Where two people, both with excellent talents and expertise have become so wrapped up in what they know how to do well that they can’t acknowledge the value of the other person, thus missing a chance to make what they are both good at even better.

Not that this is easy to do because we have likely been rewarded for being right.  In fact, likely earned our positions based on a track record of success.  But just like failure can become a barrier to others’ ideas (e.g., “We tried that before and it didn’t work”), so can success.

One of the many ironies in leadership is that the more successful we are, the more important it is to prepare to be wrong.

Or… to be able to try something different than what we would normally do.  Or… at least to be willing to consider that a method other than ours may work just as well as the way we would do it.  Being willing to be wrong is a risk, and certainly shouldn’t be the approach in every situation, AND yet might be valuable to consider in some circumstances.

Why?  Because that is how we learn, how we add new tools to our toolbox, and how we can tap into the value that others bring to the table.

As a leader, what do you see as other pros, for yourself and for your team, of preparing to be wrong?  How can leaving the door open to failure positively impact you and the people you lead?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

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3 responses to “Are you Prepared to be Wrong?

  1. If a business rewards risk-taking, even in those occasions where the idea doesn’t pan out as expected, people will be more willing to try new roads instead of always wandering down the same well-trodden paths.

    The unwillingness to admit mistakes might be due less to a problem with the person, than with a problem in the company culture.


  2. So many people are willing to admit that they are wrong or that there is another way to do something. Your point is so well taken. As a marriage,relationship and sexual coach, this is the biggest challenge for couples to get along as well.

    Kudos on a great article


  3. Just came across your post.

    From the perspective of creative problem solving and innovation,our normal thinking processes mean we probably always start out with a propensity to be wrong. Edward de Bono described it as cliché thinking. Our minds force fit the patterns of old situations onto new ones plus we have been trained to think in specific, procedural ways. The net result is that unless we challenge this cliché thinking by provoking our minds to find new perspectives we have a high probability of being wrong or at least not finding the best solution.

    Creative thinking is about provoking those new perspectives to find new solutions which when applied are useful. In essence that is innovation. But innovation is not just applicable to hi-tech R&D, it is applicable to ordinary problems and ordinary situations.


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