Being Wrong is the Right Business Strategy

I quit my job.

I didn’t want to to be right all the time.

It wasn’t a dramatic storming out the office. There were no significant problems. I left on lovely terms with everyone. The reason I left was because I wanted to move fast. In large companies, action is seldom taken unless it is irrefutable that the actions will be the right ones. For someone whimsical like me, used to moving fast, I felt like I was holding my breath all the time.

If I’m honest with myself,  it wasn’t them, it was me. I didn’t care to be right. I wanted to act!

And so, I quite my job. I have new one though. I’ve launched a startup, called Teacup Analytics. I was able to get it off the ground because I’m ok with being wrong. But this isn’t about me, it’s about why being wrong is a strategic decision for your business and for your career.

Being Right Is The Enemy Of Strategic Innovation

Being right means being sure. To be unyieldingly, stolidly, ploddingly sure, all of the time, the only position you can take is the one that involves doing nothing.

To grow a business and to innovate means being wrong, quite often. The stakes are high and being wrong can be catastrophic but at the same time, if you’re iteratively less wrong, you can reach space. Literally.

Let’s look at what getting it wrong…

 

Until getting it less wrong looks like:

 

Innovation requires being wrong, learning and improving all the time! Ongoing innovation means never truly being right, because once you’re right you’re standing still and someone else is innovating right behind you.

Let’s bring things back to earth, shall we?

Being Wrong Is Good Customer Service

Perfection is an elusive goal. While it may be a worthy one, it isn’t believable. So when something goes wrong with your service, pretending to be perfect is stupid. It isn’t believable. When the customer no longer believes you, you’ve lost them.

Being right results in blaming the customer and that will be the last time they’ll willingly be your customer. So I say it again. Be wrong and admit to it. It’s good customer service.

Good service is good business strategy. Admit the errors, fix them and you’ll have customers for life. Being wrong encourages feedback, engagement and customer investment. Being wrong encourages solutions while the quest to be right results in excuses.

Don’t make excuses. Be wrong.

Being Wrong Is Good Career Development

People who are right never grow.  It’s too scary. They might find out that they weren’t so right after all.  Those who are alright being wrong learn something new every day, in all facets of their life.

When I realized that being wrong is a fast track to getting better at my work, I was suddenly open to all sorts of good ideas. I decided to work with a mentor, and in monthly chats, I gain new insights, connections and confidence.

Being wrong helped me value my colleagues’ ideas too. They felt more valued as a result. This is highly motivating, and a motivated team hits targets. That’s good for everyone’s career! You can accomplish more by working toward being right, rather than always being right.

The Best Managers Are Often Wrong

Being wrong helps you avoid making the wrong decisions. I’m fully aware this is a peculiar statement but I’ll try to explain.

Think back to your entry level position. Did you respect your manager? Think back to yesterday. Do you respect your current manager or boss? Do you think they’d benefit from talking to you more? My guess is that the answer is yes. Every employee thinks they know things that their bosses don’t. Successful managers take the team’s pulse before making decisions.

Be a good manager and be wrong. Justify your decisions to your team. I believe this will lead to more thoughtful decisions. Your team will be respected and best of all, this results in genuine alignment behind your goals.

Bad Processes Are Simply Bad Business Strategy!

Processes are often created by people removed from the daily grind of performing the tasks involved. Frequently, processes are put in place to make one person’s workload easier at the inevitable expense of everyone else, leaving a trail of grumpiness in its wake.

Crush silly processes because they’re wrong! Every single step you take out of a process requires that the person who put that step in to be wrong. And that is fantastic. You’ve just made life easier for your team or customers or suppliers. Good business strategy relies on efficiency and you have to be wrong before you take the simplifying steps. So go and find every possible wrong step you took and make it right.

At the same time, don’t be afraid of being wrong when setting up the processes. Get it done fast and then always improve. I’m fan of Kanban methodology when it comes to finding all the ways you were wrong and setting things right.

Does Your Strategy Including The Right Analysis?

I love diving into data and looking for insights. I firmly believe, however, there is a right way and a wrong way to learn from data. The right way, in keeping with the theme of this discussion, necessitates finding all the ways you’re wrong and learning and improving.

Start with an hypothesis and act! Then look to the data to prove this hypothesis wrong. Learn from it, adjust your theories and test again and again and again. The more wrong you are at first, the more successful you’ll be in the long run. When you look to the data to show you all the ways your ideas are wrong, what you’re left with is bulletproof!

If That’s Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right!

Ok, I fully acknowledge some of the phrasing was a little tortured and I’m fine with that. If you think I’m wrong about any of these ideas, please let me know why. I’m looking forward to learning something new!

Just imagine if SpaceX were afraid to be wrong.

Dean Levitt
About the author: 

Dean Levitt is the Founder at Teacup Analytics.  Previously he was the Director – Online Support at GoDaddy.com and the Chief of Culture at Mad Mimi, LLC.  Follow Dean on LinkedIn and Twitter.