Being Wrong vs. Doing Nothing

It is easy to get so caught up in trying to make the best decision that we do nothing.  Next time you find yourself struggling with this, re-read this quote:

A person determined never to be wrong won’t likely accomplish much.

Ken Wisdom

Of course that doesn’t mean you should try to make bad decisions, but it does mean that lack of action is more harmful than occasionally making a mistake. At the very least, making a mistake means you are doing something and the chances of success when you are actually doing something is much greater than the changes of failure when you are unable to decide what to do next and do nothing.


    • Pete says

      Amen! Politics is all about the distribution of power. Once I learned this I sat back sometimes and just watched the soap opera playing out in front of me. It’s often grins and giggles!

  1. PMNelson says

    Agreed, but being wrong is usually because of lack of information. It might not have been wrong at the moment it was made. You can only make a decision based on the information you have at that moment. High reliability organizations such as nuclear plants, prisons, and so forth require the best decision that can be made at that moment. As new information comes in the organization needs the ability to change and make new decisions. As decisionmakers, we will never be throwing the long bomb in football and making a touchdown. Instead, we need to go for the short pass: 2 yards here, 5 yards here, and so on, while making the best decisions at the moment. This requires the ability to change and adapt quickly to developing situations.

    • says

      I’m not advocating being lazy and not getting the information you need, but I’ve seen people frozen because they didn’t feel they had enough data when in reality there wasn’t any more data to be had. I guess part of it comes down to knowing the consequences of making a mistake. With a nuclear power plant the consequences are very big, but a lot of decisions that people freeze on are a lot smaller and a lot less consequential.

      • Pete says

        I agree with you completely. I’ll bet all of us have watched coworkers freeze up trying to decide where to go to lunch. I’ll never see decision making at a nuclear plant, but I can watch my bosses freeze up and then decide more info is needed. Enter the underlings who will never be able to get ALL the info. Underlings get the blame, decisions don’t have to be made and all is well.
        I just keep thinking what Theodore Roosevelt said: a bad decision is better than no decision. For the most part, what is the worst the bosses can do? They can’t take away your birthday.

        • says

          I once heard a story about a guy in the Navy who was at sea and kept getting into trouble with his commanding officer. Every night he would say to himself, “They can reprimand me, they can put me on KP, they can court martial me, but they can’t take away my birthday.”

          The day before his birthday he said this to himself and then went to sleep. The next day he woke up to find that they had crossed the international date line and he had missed his birthday.

  2. says

    Analaysis, paralysis. Unfortunately we have a culture that when mistakes are made we tend to villify people instead of building them up. It’s important for organizations to verbalize the belief that it’s ok to fail if action is being taken. This will give people the confidence to take action regardless of the risks.

    • Todd says

      True. Afraid to fail, affraid to succeed, afraid to get riduculed. It’s tough sometimes. So I like the idea remembering to try and do something!

  3. Andrew Liongosari says

    Absolutely. When you are wrong, at least you tried, and there is a chance that it might have been a success. Most importantly, you also get to learn from that experience, which you will by no means get by doing nothing.

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