Jeff Bezos recently stopped by the office of 37 Signals. After talking product strategy he answered some questions.
In his answer to one question he shared some thoughts on people who were “right a lot.”
He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. 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.
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.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a well formed point of view, but it means you should consider your point of view as temporary.
What trait signified someone who was wrong a lot of the time? Someone 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.
Bezos isn’t alone. Warren Buffett’s long time business partner Charlie Munger captures this:
If Berkshire has made modest progress, a good deal of it is because Warren and I are very good at destroying our own best-loved ideas. Any year that you don’t destroy one of your best-loved ideas is probably a wasted year.
John Kenneth Galbraith put it this way:
Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
If you liked this, you’ll love:
How to Change How We Think — In the end changing how we think — that is our thought patterns — becomes about changing the language we use for internal and external communication.
Multitasking: Giving the World an Advantage it Shouldn’t Have — “I think when you multi-task so much, you don’t have time to think about anything deeply. You’re giving the world an advantage you shouldn’t do. Practically everybody is drifting into that mistake.”