In our opinionated culture, it often feels important to have a point of view and to defend it to the death, but Jeff Bezos has been preaching something for years that we could all do well to hear.

Years ago, the Amazon founder and reigning world's richest person stopped by the offices of Basecamp to talk product strategy, work and life in general.

"He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds," Basecamp founder and CEO Jason Fried recalled this week on Medium. "He doesn't think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It's perfectly healthy -- encouraged, even -- to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today."

Fried continued:

"He's observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking."

As for the type of person that gets things wrong most of the time? Fried recalled that Bezos said it was a person "obsessed with details that only support one point of view. If someone can't climb out of the details, and see the bigger picture from multiple angles, they're often wrong most of the time."

I know this may seem like common sense when it's laid out like this, but it's more difficult in practice, especially in American society. Both in the workplace and in the culture at large, we're often taught to work hard and fight to make whatever vision or concept we're backing a reality.

Even within the entrepreneurial culture that supposedly supports failing fast and pivoting, there's an awful lot of obsessing with details and not a lot of people saying "I was wrong, forget what I said yesterday and let's do it differently."

Really, how often do you hear that? More importantly, how often do you say it yourself?

Today we are hit with more data, more updates, more information and all at a more rapid pace than ever before in human history. This means we should be changing our minds all the time as we are constantly processing the endless stream of input. 

Of course, it's our egos that stand in the way of this. Change is often irritating, but not as painful as admitting when we're wrong. 

Perhaps rather than an action plan for each day that will help us achieve our goals - the things we're sure are the right things to do - we should first consider all the things that we got wrong the day before. Because how can you ever get it right when you're still focused on the details of the wrong approach?

But maybe check with me tomorrow on this idea. I may have changed my mind by then.

Published on: Aug 29, 2018
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