May  2015
What if I'm wrong?
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What if I'm wrong?
What if Im wrong?

Critical Thinking teaches us to understand the assumptions we are making before we make a decision.  We look at those assumptions and make sure they are strong, based on true facts, relevant experience, good data, reliable sources of information, appropriate analysis, etc.  When we come to a conclusion, we feel confident in our thinking and in our process.  We can present our thinking with high credibility and enroll, influence and get others to agree enthusiastically.

BUT While Critical Thinking greatly increases the probability of success, there is no guarantee that every decision will be the best one, or even a good one.   No one, no process, no procedure, no thinking is perfect.   We are also challenged to make decisions when were not as confident as we would like to be, such as when you cant get all the data or youre out of time and need to decide.

Knowing that everything isnt perfect, one of the handy tools is to ask What if Im wrong?.
  What if Im wrong about the time or $ estimate to complete that project?
  What if Im wrong about that hire?
  What if Im wrong about the advice I gave my child? 
  What if Im wrong about saying No because I thought the long term consequence outweighed the short term disappointment?  
  What if Im wrong about cancelling a doctor visit because the pain in my side went away?
  What if Im wrong about thinking that what is unimportant to me is unimportant to someone else?
  What if Im wrong about buying that stock, or selling that other one?
  What if Im wrong about accusing someone of stealing?
  What if Im wrong about buying that T.V.?
  What if Im wrong about the priority of something?

Even if we ask the question What if Im wrong?, because of our confidence, well often automatically say, If Im wrong, Ill deal with it.   

Asking What if Im wrong? has its place.  You dont want to get hung up on What if Im wrong? on something that either doesnt matter, or isnt a big deal.

But, for those things that do matter, asking What if Im wrong? leads to very constructive conversations such as;
  If Im wrong, how would I know?  What can I measure that will give me an idea of if things are going the way they should, or not?
  If Im wrong, can I mitigate and/or minimize the consequence?  How would we manage the downside of a bad decision?  Is it manageable?
  If Im wrong, can I reverse the decision?   (Can you bring that purchase back if your spouse doesnt like it).
  If Im wrong, do we have a plan B .. should we have a plan B?
  If Im wrong about a short term decision, is it still worth the risk vs. the long term benefit or consequence if Im right?
  If Im wrong, how would we stop or modify the current initiative to implement the other choice?

The Takeaway: Asking If Im wrong? isnt about second guessing, or not being confident, or analyzing something to death.  Its about stimulating thinking around the possibilities.   This not only allows you to have a fall back strategy in case you are wrong, but will even increase your confidence in making the decision.

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