I'm Happy When I'm Wrong (or Lesson from TechStars Cloud Month 1)

If I had to sell a tech entrepreneur on doing TechStars, I’d tell them it’s the fastest way to learn more of the things that you don’t know you don’t know.   Nothing else offers the opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to develop themselves so much, so quickly.  This is one of the reasons that being there is invigorating and, of course, the following is an example of how I get to learn as well.

At our weekly 10:10pm all-hands meeting, each team and staff member stands up and says their Pit (worst thing that happened that week), Peak (best thing), and Big Rock (stretch goals for the week).  It’s a great team bonding exercise and as a pretty much full-time volunteer to the program, I get to do mine.  In week 3, I said my Pit was “I’m too quiet.”  

People didn’t get why I’d feel badly about that.  But, in my typical jump from A to D way (skipping B and C), I did a bad job of explaining why I saw my holding back opinions or observations as a problem.  I had seen that a big part of what makes TechStars work is the collegial atmosphere.  Debate is intense and it’s certainly ok to be wrong.  The most appreciated approach is to have “strong views expressed passionately but loosely held.”  Intense discussion is everyone’s opportunity to learn and get better, which is why we’re there.  

However, by keeping quiet when I strongly disagreed or had a contradictory insight, I was doing it wrong.  It was bad for me because I was losing a chance to learn and bad for everyone else because it’s possible that I was correct or, at minimum, they could use my misunderstanding to make their argument or reasoning clearer.  So, the next week I made a point to speak up more and make my case when I felt strongly about a topic.

Yeah, sure, given my competitive personality, it’s difficult to lose an argument or be wrong but I take a deep breath and move on.  But, I think the change paid off.   My learning since then has accelerated and feel like I’m adding more value to the process.

I’ve heard that silence is the only appropriate substitute for brains.  Makes sense.  But, often times, arguing your case is the fastest way to get smarter.  

This is one of the many things I didn’t know I didn’t know from this, TechStar Cloud 2013’s first amazing month. 

Michael Girdley