Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

One of our team members has recently finished the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz, which is a fascinating read for those interested in how the brain processes errors and the effect it has on behaviour. It is no surprise that the acknowledgement of errors in logic or deeply-engrained beliefs can be awkward and unpleasant, and thus it is difficult for individuals to admit when they have made an error. However, Schulz shows that erring is a critical component of being human. Embracing the concept of error and improving on wrongly-held beliefs is a central reason why humanity has been able to progress at the speed it has.

While there are many interesting points that the book covers, there are some practical passages for businesses looking to eradicate error. To put some numbers into perspective, according to the Institute of Medicine, medical mistakes cost the United States between $17 to $29 billion annually. The paradox of error, as explained by Schulz, is that in order to eliminate error, you must first start by assuming it is inevitable. Relying on hard data, committing to open and democratic communication, and acknowledging fallibility are ways businesses can help to reduce error; the only problem is, this is often markedly different from how humans behave in their day-to-day lives.