Gartner Blog Network

What Your Preference-Being Right or Not Being Wrong?

by Hank Barnes  |  April 2, 2019  |  Comments Off on What Your Preference-Being Right or Not Being Wrong?

A few weeks back, a post in my stream led me to an article called “The Power of Thought: How Critical Thinking Can Help Your Business” at the Knowledge@Wharton Web site.  The article is an interview with Gerald Zaltman, the author of an excellent book “Unlocked: Keys to Improve Your Thinking.”

One of the topics in the article and the book is to assess what statement describes yourself better “I love being right. Or, I hate being wrong.” (note: I found another interesting blog post on this topic that is worth the read.)  This relates very closely to my post from last week about the safe choice.

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

Studying this statement finds that most people, when required to make a choice, prefer the statement “I hate being wrong.”  When confronted with an issue, the preference to not being wrong often leads to making the “safe choice.”   It leads to less innovation, less risk, and less reward.

But that is not the only concern, apply this to projects, such as making a large technology purchase.  We know that there are a lot of people, from different groups, make up the typical tech buying team.  Some of these people participate only occasionally, brought in at specific points for assistance.

Given the fact that the majority of being prefer “I hate being wrong;” it is pretty likely that the team will have a subconcious bias toward “lower risk.”  Or, indecision.

Sure, there is lots of talk from Lean Startup about “failing fast,”  and others are trying to adopt that mentality to build a learning organization and support a growth mindset, but there is a lot of individual “baggage” to work through.  And “I hate being wrong” captures that succienctly.

Being wrong is embarrassing.  Being wrong is risky.  Being wrong can get you fired.

And being wrong can get you stuck. You avoid creative thinking.  You look for facts that justify positions.

There are a few ideas of what to do to fight this”

  • Zaltman’s advice, as you work through a decision, do a “pre-mortem,” basically exploring, in depth, what could go wrong.  Then use that pre-mortem to determine what you can do to avoid that happening.   As you find those ways, you’ll find that the “risks” may be less.
  • Dave Brock talked about a key approach to this for sales teams in a recent post, “What are the Consequences of Doing Nothing?“Doing nothing is the ultimate “I hate being wrong response.” Explore the risks of status quo.
  • In last year’s keynote at Gartner Symposium, we shared a “culture hack” of a government CIO to spur decision-making AND fight the fear of being wrong.  He gamified decisions, awarding his team 2 points for every decision they made autonomously.  If they decision turned out to be wrong, he took away a point, not both of them.  The message-act and learn.

Be willing to work with your customers to explore the risks of change, the risk of the status quo, and encourage action.  As a sales and marketing team, you have to help your buyers build confidence that they won’t be wrong.   That’s more important to them than choosing the right product or solution.

While people hate being wrong, they do feel pretty good when they are right.   Getting there is a team effort.


Additional Resources

View Free, Relevant Gartner Research

Gartner's research helps you cut through the complexity and deliver the knowledge you need to make the right decisions quickly, and with confidence.

Read Free Gartner Research

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: b2bmarketing  b2bsales  buying-teams  consensus  critical-thinking  mindsets  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.