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February 7, 2013 / Randy Coppinger

The Importance of Being Wrong

In professional relationships I like to tell people, “I reserve the right to be wrong.” Originally this was a simple ego check; a way to let people know that I take responsibility for my errors as well as successes. Since everyone makes mistakes, please allow me the opportunity to fix mine. Let’s identify the problem — even if I am the source of it — so that we can ultimately get it right. But identifying my points of failure is taking new meaning.

I heard a piece on the radio about the Ikea Effect. In brief: when we invest our time and effort into something, we often become enamored with it. The pride of I made this threatens good decision making if we become so attached to it that we can no longer see things objectively. As a recovering shade tree mechanic, nacent “maker” and proud Do-It-Yourself-er I run the risk of being blinded by my own handywork. Does this microphone actually sound better because I modified it, or do I simply love using it because I am emotionally invested? Is my new workflow really the best choice for this project, or does my time spent creating it bias me?

Our Unwarranted Emotional Investment in our own ideasSome of my most valued relationships are with people who will listen to my “elevator pitch” for something I am creating. I can get better results if I’m open to hearing the flaws instead of simply getting a pat on the back. And helping me is no small task. These people have to be willing to listen to my thoughts, bring some knowledge to the discussion, and tell me honestly about the parts that don’t jive. Inviting criticism isn’t fun. Or easy. But one of the reasons I like having conversations with other audio people is the opportunity to tease out the good from the bad. If I spent too long assembling that bookshelf, I may overlook my fairly obvious mistakes. I need folks who will ask, “Is it supposed to be like that?”

See also: Hammer Everything, an exploration of how tools influence decision making.

4 Comments

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  1. David Das / Feb 7 2013 9:45 am

    This is a hard lesson to learn professionally. As a producer, especially, it’s easy to get caught up in the effort you put into something — “It took me hours to find that sound!” — that you become blind to a truth that an outside listener can hear instantly — maybe it’s not the best sound after all. Yet psychologically you become tied to it because of the effort/thought you put into it — or the fact that you did the wiring yourself, or you performed it, or how much money you spent on it.

    As a producer I have a policy of never sending anything to my artists until the next day after I create it. On the day of creation, I’m in the weeds and I can’t always see the forest for the trees. I always need to listen with a set of fresh ears, the next morning, and numerous times I’ve caught myself and said, “What was I thinking?” and have been able to make it better before someone else catches it.

    But the more I do it, the better I get at it.

    • Randy Coppinger / Feb 7 2013 10:47 pm

      Thanks for sharing that, David. I think the opposite can also be problematic: where we doubt ourselves to the point of paralysis. Creating confidence without deluding ourselves is not an easy balance to find. We’ve identified a few things to help keep the balance: experience, recreation (“fresh ears”), and feedback from others. Anything else?

  2. Baxter Labatos / Feb 8 2013 3:46 pm

    This is an interesting angle. As a blogger I do get that feeling that ” I know what I am doing.” It is good to constantly hear both sides of your ears 🙂

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