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I am often mistaken as CEO – but that's okay




Boris is the wise old CEO of TNW, who writes a weekly column about everything that it means to be a technology entrepreneur – from dealing with stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his thoughts straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

Every now and then I'm right about something, and that gives me great pleasure. But sometimes I'm not right, and that's okay. We cannot know everything and always make the right decisions. I resigned myself to the fact that I know much less about many things than I do about many people. Fortunately, I also know a little bit more about some things than a lot of people, so everything is fine. Apart from that, I can change my mind and do it quickly.

I am embarrassed to admit that diversity at work was not particularly important to me a long time ago. I naively thought that everyone has the same opportunities in life, and starting a business was stressful enough without having to deal with such things. But then I listened to people who had the patience to explain why I was wrong and how diversity is really an efficiency tool that companies can work with better. I now think that this is an essential part of building a successful organization (1

9659004). Still, I remember I never saw that at all.

There was also a time when privacy wasn't really important to me. I said to people, "I have nothing to hide, so why should I care?" It took me a while to realize that this was a very selfish thing, and I wrote about the importance of privacy [19659005] many times since then.

More recently and more embarrassingly, I thought and claimed (loudly) that the fears of the corona virus were exaggerated. The virus was not much worse than the flu, I argued. But as I got more information, I realized I was underestimating the situation and I quickly changed my mind and took action .

[Read: You’re already an influencer — now use your power for good]

But these are by no means the only examples of where I believed something that turned out not to be true. Some examples are more embarrassing than others, and I'll spare myself if I don't share them all. But I'm glad I was able to change my mind. In fact, I would argue that being ready to change your mind is an important skill.

When you do business (but I assume that this is not just for business), you often respond to incomplete data. You cannot wait until you have all the details because then you will be late. You act on a combination of some data, your gut feeling and your experience. And then you are certain. You assume that your prediction will come true, because what else can you do?

For this to work, however, you must also adopt a state of mind with "strong beliefs and weak beliefs". Due to incomplete information, you are 100% sure that this is the next step you need to take. And when new information arrives that leads to a different conclusion, you have to change your mind.

The real challenge then is not to accept the fact that you were wrong. I see it as a necessary skill to be able to change my mind about new events. You shouldn't be ashamed or throw people in the face when they do.

I am thankful for the people who have been patient enough to confront me with new facts that have helped me to change my mind. If the same people had only said, "He's wrong, so he's an idiot and I won't waste time with him," I would be stuck with some terribly wrong opinions. Now I could develop, be smart and be smarter, and other people can too.

I really believe that everything I've just written is the best way – but I could be wrong.

Can't you get enough of Boris? Read his older stories here and subscribe to the TNW newsletter here. Published on March 26, 2020 – 15:17 UTC


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