Do you always have to be right?

English: From the series Lateral Thinking
From the series Lateral Thinking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew this guy once who was always right about everything. I’m not trying to pick on him but use his attitude as an example. When you were having a conversation with him, he would tell you what was the best car, the superior whiskey, and even the best place to buy clothes.

In his need to always be right, you couldn’t get a word in edge ways or persuade him to an alternative or different point of view. It’s interesting that he still ekes out a living in some backwater, barely scraping enough money together to keep his rigid lifestyle going.

This may be an extreme example of someone who is set in their ideas and ways. But it illustrates the dangers of the need to be right: it shuts out progress.

Another person I know is almost the polar opposite. He doesn’t believe in the need to be right all the time, that there is one correct way. He welcomes alternative viewpoints. In fact, he enjoys provoking new ways of thinking. He loves challenging assumptions especially of business models to find new ways to generate income. Interestingly, this business person thrives in economic ups and downs and last year said he had one of his best years, despite the economy.

What’s mindset do you hold? Are you able to suspend judgement and take in new perspectives and ideas without the constant need to be right?

If you possess an open mind toward your business and the external environment as well as others opinions and viewpoints, you will tend to have a higher tolerance towards uncertainty.

Innovation comes about through suppressing your need to be right all the time and believing that there’s one correct way only. F Scott Fitzgerald, the author, expressed this ability to deal with uncertainty this way: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Business people with minds all cut and dried or set in concrete tend to be losers in the information society. Whatever size your business is, in the hyper-intensive competition in today’s market you need to come up with new ways of attracting customers, reducing costs, motivating employees and outwitting your competition.

Many businesses place a premium on new ideas particularly in advertising, information technology, Internet and online businesses, and electronics. It’s no different for the small business that needs to stay up-to-date with consumer trends, changing demographics and the competition.

How then does one resist the need to be right?

The need to be right has been ingrained into us in our school years and in some post-high school academic studies where you get marked on the one right answer.

Again, there is no one right way to “un-freeze” your attitudes and I really don’t want to be prescriptive in any way in making suggestions here. I suppose it all starts with suspending your judgement or evaluation of what other people say and what you see and hear.

Sometimes it pays to search for more than one solution to a problem or to generate several “answers”. But it also means making lateral thinking a part of your approach to business and life. It means not settling for second best, the cliched response or idea as well as recognising that some things even though not brand-new may still be just as effective or even more so than the bright shiny new object.

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