Are You Brave Enough to Be Wrong?
I just finished watching great TED talk by Kathryn Schulz on Being Wrong.
Go ahead and watch it now… It starts slow, but bear with me. It has an
important message. Pay close attention to her slide on the “series of
unfortunate assumption.” Brilliant!
As I listened to her, I reflected on how her talk applies to the world of early stage technology companies and their VCs.
I am surrounded in my professional life by people (mostly men) who
are very smart, very hard working, very passionate about what they do
and think… and very very passionate about being right all the time.
We tend to pay the usual homage to our humility and our readiness to
accept that we are not perfect or that we can be wrong. The reality is
that most of us really hate being wrong, or hate admitting that we are
wrong. There is a strong undercurrent within us that being wrong – or
admitting to it – is a sign of weakness. Especially in the situations
where we are trying to get our point of view across to others who have equally strong points of view.
The reality is that we make mistakes all the time. Sometimes we
realize our mistakes and acknowledge them to ourselves and others. But
most of the time, we don’t even realize it because even if we have the
open mind to admit our mistakes, we may not have the information to
realize when and how we’re wrong. Kathryn calls it “Error Blindness.”
The illusion of being right is a huge problem in early stage
companies. A startup is all about making mistakes. Mistakes are inherent
when creating something new because its newness means venturing into
The quickest path to startup success is the rapid execution of a long
series of small experiments and the rapid iterations based on learning
from mistakes. Eric Ries’ Lean Startup journey is all about this concept.
Fear of being wrong (or the inability to recognize when you’re wrong)
is the biggest impediment to finding the optimal path to success.
Think about that the next time you passionately argue a point with someone that is trying to show you where you may be wrong.
Think about this the next time you bash someone for being wrong.
Instead, celebrate his/her wrongness and use the time to realize your
own. Then learn from it.
Be brave enough to be wrong!
Firas Raouf is a Venture Partner with OpenView Venture Partners. You may find this post, as well as additional content on OpenView's blog located here. You can also follow Firas on Twitter (@fraouf) by clicking here.