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Productivity

Making a big mistake is not the worst thing for your business

Wrongologist, Kathryn Schulz has spent the past five years studying how it feels to be wrong.  As she jokes in this TED talk, hers is a job with very little competition! 

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According to Kathryn we are universally obsessed with being right, but trusting too much in our “feeling” that we are right can be very dangerous. 

“It’s a problem collectively for our society,” says Kathryn. 

“The sense of rightness inside us is not a reliable judge of what is going on in the outside world… it causes us to treat others terribly and erodes creativity.” 

As Kathryn goes on to explain that we feel “safe” when we feel right – it makes us feel smart and virtuous, but in reality the world doesn’t work like that. 

“The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is, it’s that you can see the world as it isn’t… We generate these incredible stories about the world around us, and then the world turns around and astounds us,” says Kathryn. 

“If you want to rediscover wonder you have to step out of that tiny, terrified space of rightness, and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe. And go, wow. I don’t know. Maybe I am wrong.” 

So how does this look in the context of running a small business? When you make a mistake, how do you handle it professionally without (potentially) losing your customer? 

Founder of The School of Purpose, Simon Moore says there is only one rule here: admit your mistakes.

“Always let your customer/client know what has happened,” says Simon. 

“But don’t stop there. You also need to tell them what you plan to do to fix it.”

Career coach and time management expert and founder of Time Stylers, Kate Christie says adopting a “fail fast” mentality is also healthy.  

“If your business idea or new product or service is not going to be successful, then you want to fail as quickly as possible.  This is not about personal failure, this is about learning and evolving. It’s about what is good for your business. You want to get the mistakes out of the way as quickly as possible so that you can spend your time on the successes.” 

But also – watch using your gut instinct as your (only) barometer. 

Your instincts may be pointing you in a certain direction, your gut is acting on muscle memory – reverting to a more emotional or subconsciously biased way of making decisions,” says Kate. 

“A gut based decision alone, for more complex decisions, is like flipping a coin – you will win some and you will lose some. To tip the balance towards more wins, stress test your gust against a reasoned decision making process, including questions like:  what types of options will I evaluate? What criteria will I assess each option against? What data will I rely on? Who will I consult with?” 

As  Wrongologist Kathryn Schulz points out in her TED talk, our “feeling” of being right can be liberating.

Stepping outside the feeling [of being right]  and it’s the single most moral and intellectual victory we can make,” she says. 

Enough said. 

Lucy Kippist

is an experienced Australian editor with experience in writing, podcasting radio and television, with previous senior editorial roles at News Corp news.com.au, Kidspot and Kinderling Kids Radio. In her current role as editor of Flying Solo, Australia's #1 website for solo business owners she is pursuing her passion for women in the small business space. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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