When Was the Last Time You Were Wrong?

Here’s just one of several examples from me today – I was completely wrong about the talk I gave this morning. I sent the slides through to the organisation I was giving it for on Wednesday. Then I spent the entire 90 minute drive down to the venue re-thinking what should go in the talk.

I thought of about 10 slides that I had to add, and I was sure that if I didn’t add them, the talk would be a disaster.

When it was time to set up, I looked on my usb stick to find the other talk that had the additional slides on it, but it wasn’t there. I had to go with my original ones.

So I did. And it ended up being the best public talk I’ve ever given.

I was completely wrong on the drive down about what had to change.

always make new mistakes

There all kinds of mistakes that we can make. We can overthink something like I did, or we can underthink it. We can try something that doesn’t work, or we can let fear keep us from trying something that would work. It was fear at work with me this morning. I had a talk that was quite different from others that I’ve given, and I wanted to add in some familiar slides so that I’d feel more comfortable. If I had, it would have ruined the talk. It’s good that I tried out the new talk – even if it hadn’t worked, I’d’ve learned something that would make the next one better, which wouldn’t have happened if I had gone with one of my standard talks.

Scott Berkun posted a great quote from Woody Allen from the American Masters documentary on him:

There are a lot of surprises that happen between writing it, doing it, and seeing it on the screen, most surprises are negative. Most surprises are that you thought something was good, or funny, and it’s not. I’ve made just about 40 films in my life and so few of them have really been worth anything. Because it’s not easy – if it’s easy it wouldn’t be fun, it wouldn’t be valuable.

The key point that I take from this is that we have to execute our ideas to see if they’ll work. The whole point of innovating is to experiment. Try something, find out what works, and learn from what doesn’t.

There always will be surprises, and not everything will work out as you plan. In fact, almost nothing will work out as you plan. That’s why we have to actually try things, because that’s the only way to find out what will actually work.

When was the last time you were wrong? I hope it was recently.

(The awesome photo is from flickr/elycefeliz under a Creative Commons License).

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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