It’s easy to get the impression that we all have to be right 100% of the time. When we see high profile individuals on TV, whether in business or politics, it seems the script is to deny you were ever wrong and insist that you were right all along. I think that’s ridiculous. I learned the lesson while doing data analysis as an intern that being right all the time is, in fact, a very bad the thing.
The problem with always being right
My boss at the time had a saying, “If you’re right all the time you’re either lying, or you’re not asking the right questions.” Let’s take the book Jurassic Park as an example. Dr. Sattler proposed that the dinosaurs were starting to reproduce, but when the park staff ran the program that counts the dinosaurs it came back with the exact number it was supposed to. Clearly there wasn’t a problem! But when she looked at the code, looked at the actual question it was asking, it was only ever looking for exactly that number of dinosaurs. Once it hit that number, it stopped counting. When they started asking, “How many dinosaurs are there total?” rather than “Can you count this many dinosaurs?” the size of the problem at Jurassic Park became clear. Always being right led to them being very, very wrong in the end.
The virtue of being wrong…
I view being wrong as an essential step toward improvement. If I ask the question “Did my clients make money?” while evaluating my portfolios, I’m nearly always right! But if I ask, “Did my clients make the most money they could given the level of risk they were taking?” I’m opening myself up to being wrong much more often, but in the process I now have the ability to do a better job for a my clients. In short, when I open myself up to being wrong, I also open myself up to improving over time. Thanks to this, my portfolios, plans, and products used should always be improving, and with them the results my clients are able to enjoy.
…so long as it’s not all the time
Of course, this doesn’t mean I want to be wrong all the time, and neither should you! I need to be right a strong majority of the time in order to show I’m competent at what I do. But being willing to admit when I’m wrong when it does happen means I’m always inching closer to the ideal, even if I never get there. I also think, that by being honest with clients when I’m wrong, as well as right, I’m building a more trusting relationship. If they know I’m honest when I’m wrong, then I should be honest when I’m right too.
So if you’d like to talk more about asking the right questions and being open to being wrong, Contact Me! And in the meantime, take a look at the questions you’re asking yourself. Are they the right questions? Are you open to being wrong?