The power of not having to be right

Discoveries happen when you deshackle from being right

The following story was taken from the book, Mind Set! by John Naisbitt, the author of the amazingly successful Megatrends and

Megatrends 2000 books. (This is not to be confused with the book of the same name by Dr Carol Dweck, and whose work we quote a lot in this site)

Driving against traffic

Would you drive against traffic? A stupid question, isn't it? Well, two Australian doctors did the equivalent of just that when they proposed that stomach ulcers were the result of an unknown strain of bacteria. This flew in the face of current accepted medical theory that ulcers were caused by stress, smoking and alcohol; and the standard treatment was surgery.

In 1983, Dr Barry Marshall began successfully treating ulcer sufferers with antibiotics. Later that year, he presented his findings at a conference in Belgium, and when asked if some stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria, he went on to say that all stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria. He was booed off the stage. After all, what he was saying flew in the face of the accepted knowledge at that time, and questioned the wisdom of current-day experts.

Fast-forward to 2005, and Drs Robin Warren and Barry Marshall were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the "ulcer bug".

Unknown unknowns

Drs Marshall and Warren were courageous enough to question the status quo and to put forth a hypothesis that ran counter to the accepted theory at that time. In an imperfect world, we cannot expect that things will remain the way they were in the past. There are many more things that are unknown, and we are not even aware of what they are. This is why we need to keep questioning the status quo, especially when conventional wisdom seems to throw some very unexpected outcomes, even if they are statistically insignificant! When the accepted wisdom doesn't seem to explain everything, it might well be that it is NOT everything!

Related: How would you know what you don't know?

Deshackle your mind

We are conditioned from young to conform. We were brought up to respect authority, to respect rules, to respect the government. Not that they are not worth respecting; but when rules stifle commonsense, when authority descends into despotism, when conformity kills creativity, we have given up our individualism for the masses. We have chosen to drive with the traffic, even if that may lead us to a dead end. We need to deshackle our mind from restrictive, and sometimes mindless, actions, not so much to be a rebel, but to be a thinking individual empowered to make mistakes. It is only when we give ourselves the permission to be wrong, that we can be more right.

Drs Warren and Marshall were empowered to not be right, leading to groundbreaking medical discovery and the Nobel Prize. It is only when we have the courage to drive against traffic can we then uncover the unknown unknowns, and to discover a new known.

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