“I was wrong”

That’s a hard sell.

It’s difficult to get someone (a client, a boss, a voter, a partner) to say those three words. Difficult to say on our own behalf, too.

Which is why we so easily get stuck.

We get stuck defending what we already decided. Because it feels easier to defend than it does to be wrong.

In 1993, in my role as founder of an internet company, I rejected the idea of the world wide web. I saw Mosaic (and then Netscape) and decided it was stupid, a dead end, a technology not worthy of our tiny company’s time.

That decision cost me a billion dollars.

Within nine months, I saw what others were seeing. I saw the power of widespread connectivity and how it was more powerful than a centralized host.

It still wasn’t easy to say, “I was wrong.”

The alternative is, “based on new information, I can make a new decision.”

We can make a new decision on what’s happening to our environment, based on new data and new science. We can make a new decision on corporate governance or on a recent political referendum.

“Why didn’t you tell me that it would lead to all these bad outcomes?”

Not wrong, simply underinformed.

The cost of a do-over is often less than the cost of sticking with a decision that was made in good faith, on insufficient information.

We don’t have to be wrong. But we regularly get a chance to make things more right.

       


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