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Posted by Philip on 24 May 2015, 11:25 am in , , , , , ,

When everything goes wrong rightly

"Incorrect" with "in" crossed outKathryn Shultz quotes Ira Glass in her excellent TED Talk, On Being Wrong. She does so to add another example of how we go through life in "a bubble of feeling right" when, in fact, we seldom are.

"I thought this one thing was going to happen and something else happened instead. And the thing is, we need this. We need these moments of surprise and reversal and wrongness to make [our] stories work." — Ira Glass, Host, This American Life.

Leadership, diversity, complexity and change, the spaces in which my work most often falls, are bastions of wrongness.

Just last week, I was leading a leadership programme. Our first speaker, let's call them Plan A, was unwell. Plan B was to visit the Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa, but there was a 45 minute wait. When do you you need a Plan C? Only when both Plans A and B are wrong. The leadership challenge is to keep going.

People in general struggle with human diversity. Why? Because we generally expect everyone to be like us. To have the same binary gender identity, culture, functional ability, sexual orientation, values and beliefs. When our expectations of others are wrong, we panic – what should we say or do, even how should we be? On an even deeper level, we may even wonder if we may be wrong about ourselves. The diversity challenge is to accept.

Complexity is often confused with complication (let's call it difficulty), and in this area we are wrong, three times. (1) We're wrong that a complex situation is difficult – it's dynamic. And in a dynamic situation, when things and people are not only interacting with us, (2) we're likely to be wrong about what we are actually interacting with. Ergo, (3) we are likely to be wrong about the effect of our interaction. The complexity challenge is to notice.

We usually expect and prefer things to stay the same, but we know from the old chestnut, change is the only constant. So we're nearly constantly wrong about things being the same. The change challenge is to adapt.

How do we cope with all this wrongness. Not well, it seems to me. Why? As Shultz says, we think being wrong is wrong. So we end up in a vicious cycle.

Thinking being wrong makes us wrong is a belief. It's something we're taught from a young age. The wrongness challenge is to change our belief. If we decide that being wrong is actually right or, if that is too much of a stretch, simply inevitable, then wrong ceases to exist.

We are then left to contemplate the world without being wrong.

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