By | Sabih Kidwai | Director Learning Solutions, Talent Management & OD at Schneider Electric Greater India
“Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden…. I will meet you there.”
Thomas Alva Edisson, one of the most prolific inventors of all times who had more than 1,000 patents to his name publicly confessed that his success was not without failures. Before making his first successful light bulb, he made many unsuccessful ones, experimenting with thousands of filament materials before accidentally trying upon the carbonized cotton thread, which finally worked. As a matter of fact, Edison and his associates considered at least three thousand different theories for creating an effective incandescent lamp, and they tested as many as 6,000 different materials before getting it right.
Almost all the contemporary knowledge or development would not have existed if someone did not dare to be wrong. Yet from the very beginning of our development at home and school, we are told when we are right and wrong. Interestingly this training not only prescribes right & wrong, it also defines the worth of those who are right and those who are not. It is common belief that you are significant only when you are right ! The whole education system is based on differentiating between the students who get more things ‘right’ from those who do not. We all are tuned to take notice of someone who does something wrong and make judgement about the person. This is so deeply ingrained in our way of thinking that not just others but even we ourselves make harsh judgment of our own capabilities based on how much or how many times are we right or wrong. This thinking has been a bane to our society and civilization for long. It is causing us to conform and restrict our responses, our thinking and our commitment to what is popularly right. Things that are conventional, orthodox, established and practiced by the society at large are considered Right !
Our workplaces are an extension of this thought process and tend to be judgmental of people who make mistakes or in other words are caught doing, saying or even thinking wrong. This is causing the employees to be conformist and not experimenting enough or causing enough disruptions. If we really want the Organizations to thrive and be able to leverage the full potential of all the people, we will have to create an environment that allows employees to experiment, stretch and make mistakes. We will have to make it comfortable for our people to be wrong and accept being wrong. It is a huge paradigm shift for a society that is so obsessed with being right.. If we pick up the biography of anyone who has done something worthwhile, we will realize that it is because they developed themselves to be at peace with being wrong. They realize that to be really able to get one meaningful thing right, we must attempt multiple things, of which many will go wrong !
Michael Jordan said “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”
Successful Organizations of future will have to incubate and create safe havens for people to break out and experiment with new ideas, cause disruptions for the Company and for humanity at large. We will have to celebrate both right & wrong, and create environment that is appreciative of both. Our employees should feel confident to express without the fear of ridicule or reprimand, if they happen to be wrong. To realize the full potential of the Organization, we must give everyone … the right of being wrong !