Pivoting and Accepting Being Wrong

While we are on the track of studying the Theory of Constraints and Technical Debt, one of the interesting things that I’ve discovered is missing from many people’s day-to-day activities is the evaluation of whether we are wrong. Being wrong happens all the time, and that’s fine. The problem comes when we are wrong, but fail to admit or acknowledge this. When we are talking about TOC and Technical Debt, being wrong but blasting ahead on the same path is a surefire way to kill productivity.

Why I Like Being Wrong

Trust me on this, I don’t like to be wrong. That being said, I also know that finding out that I am wrong is the best thing that can happen. If I had kept going with a concept or a task that based based in something that wasn’t right, I am not only wasting my time on the current task, but I’m also creating future technical debt to recover from it.

It took a long time for me to be able to embrace wrongness. It’s still a challenge. Truthfully, I don’t think that most people would enjoy finding out that they are wrong on something, but it is a critical part in achieving overall success on tasks.

Why Being Wrong is Good

We will all make a directional decision at some point in our job that will end up being a wrong decision. It could be something that slowly morphs into a poor direction, or it could be something that shows to be incorrect right away. The reason why this is entirely fine is that everyone will do this. The difference in how we end up in the long term is how we react to being wrong.

If being wrong is something that you don’t embrace at this point, you may find that you keep moving forward with a bad decision that we believe is wrong but are afraid to admit to.

As a big fan of Lean Startup methodologies, I love the idea of the pivot. Pivoting isn’t always a reaction from a poor decision, but it very certainly is the right way to react when you realize that something is wrong. The pivot is a change in direction or strategy based on the previous position. The important thing with a pivot is that it is based on evidence and the previous state. The move is meant to adjust the direction in a new direction as a correction. It can also be a positive adjustment in a new direction without a negative experience leading to it.

In other words, you don’t have to be wrong to pivot, but if you are, then a pivot is the right way to go.

Being Wrong and the TOC

Remember when we talked about TOC Thinking? There are key points in that article included the 5 steps of TOC thinking which are:

1. Gain agreement on the problem
2. Gain agreement on the direction for a solution
3. Gain agreement that the solution solves the problem
4. Agree to overcome any potential negative ramifications
5. Agree to overcome any obstacles to implementation

This applies to our idea if embracing wrongness because it requires the people involved to agree to a problem, and then to agree on a solution to solve the problem. The acceptance of the problem is the acceptance of being wrong.

Partial Wrongness

Remember too that wrong doesn’t mean 100% error. Being wrong could mean that there is a 90% success where there could be 100%. It could be a small adjustment to things that would derive a better result. The pivot is not a 180 degree turn so much as it is an adjustment to correct the course.

This is another important part of understanding why it is ok to be wrong. Being wrong doesn’t imply failure, it implies that a correction was needed. We also don’t need to expect perfection, but if we hold ourselves to the Theory of Constraints, we will continue to apply effort on a constraint and continue to improve.

TED Talks with Kathryn Schulz

This could be the greatest way to explain the art of being wrong. I saw Kathryn Schulz present this on the TED website and it struck a chord with me immediately. Hopefully you can take the time to watch this presentation and enjoy it as much as I did. Not only does it tell a similar story to what I’ve


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