Being Wrong

I’m struck by the similarity between people who do the best work, and people who doubt that the work they do is that good.

Over in my Other Place I’ve recently posted two seemingly unrelated talks. Ben Hammersley talking about networked civil society, and Merlin Mann’s webstock talk about how He and the Universe Don’t Care If You’re Scared, in what he also references back to The War of Art.

Ben talks about a different type of fear in others – as what the world is becoming, and the difference between those who see hierarchies and those who don’t in terms of international relations and “digital geo-politics”.

And as things begin to rotate from looking up to looking across, it’s easy to think that you’re looking the wrong way; principally because there’s no clear right way. Taking a forward view, you look horizontally at your colleagues on twitter; and see a very different type of network and support structure; and sometimes the two interact in many ways: #weLoveBaskers, #pufflesmassiv, @nakedcserv

Those without the sheer bloody mindedness (or confidence) to continue, question their assumptions, and slow down. There’s no easy answer; sometimes that’s right for a novel idea, sometimes that isn’t. One happens mostly in public, the other happens mostly in private.

I remember a blog post from years ago by someone who had just left DirectGov, talking about the how/why of a major decision he was very proud of: that there were no inline links in the text of DirectGov pages. And the final line was something along the lines of “sometimes, when everyone says you’re wrong; you’re still right”. The comments on the post were from the “everyone” side of that discussion.

Unshakable confidence that you’re right is not necessarily a good thing, and sometimes means you do something silly. That fear, is possibly the underlying problem. Kathryn Shultz talks about the assumption that they’re not necessarily right with the fear of Being Wrong (which comes out in the UK soon).

It’s not being permanently right that moves us forwards, it’s the lessons from past work. Which requires the introspection and self-confidence to look, consider, evaluate and move forward.

Jun 2011
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2 Responses to : Being Wrong

  1. Pingback: Interesting competition for what to do with 100 Drobos? | Disruptive

  2. Francis Irving says:

    Interesting post.

    I think it is important to know that you might be wrong, to be self critical, try to understand all other viewpoints… but crucially to *carry on acting anyway*.

    Otherwise you leave the world to all the people who really do think they’re right.

    I’m going to quote an email I wrote to a friend in 2003 on this subject.

    “On believing you can improve others lot, without making things worse:
    There was an excellent speaker at an Oxfam assembly last year who talked
    about this. He was a guest psychologist. His view was there is a need
    in the world now (given globalisation of the economy and of war and of
    dogmatism) for people who doubt and yet still act. That is to doubt
    fundamentally, to know that you don’t know, but to still have the courage
    and confidence to make your best choice.

    “I go on to say: The flip side danger is that the only people acting are
    those who do not doubt, who are by definition fundamentalist in whatever
    belief they have. If only they are acting, it will create conflict,
    exacerbate wars, and make things worse. It’s a duty of doubting people
    to act.

    “I have this trick my mind uses when it thinks about things. There’s a
    sweet spot, on the edge of chaos. Where you balance both sides of things
    just right. It’s like there’s a route through a maze which avoids all
    the problems, if you hunt for it and find it.”

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