On Being Wrong – Change Agents


Continuous Improvement, HR Community

On Being Wrong

I have so many horrible ideas.

This isn’t a self-effacing comment, but instead a reflection of a lifetime’s accumulation of what my wife describes as a “magnetic draw to the absurd.” In fact, we have a running joke that I should open a company called, Eight Second Brands. In her view, I would take the world’s worst ideas, spend no more than eight seconds of my time naming it, and *poof*, a “great” new brand is born.

Let me give you a real example.

In 2011, I was a very active member of the HR speaking circuit and hosted a successful blog called “Inflexion Point.” Traffic was strong, our brand was growing, and the stage was alluring. Like every ego-riddled entrepreneur of that time, I immediately considered the next chapter of my content empire. Ready for this one?

The cure for the common blog.

Eight second brands, indeed.

This ridiculous concept was to be the home for all my non-HR musings. As you rightly assessed, I actually paid a graphic designer to develop the logo, bought the URL, and was ready to let this gently rise to the top of your feed. So, what happened? Did the good people at Bayer send a cease and desist letter for IP infringement? Hardly.

The honest answer is that I realized I am not that important, and I was wrong to think otherwise. Not only did Alka-Stelzner die in the glass, but I scheduled my final paid speaking engagement that same year. My intention was to use the stage to admit I was wrong in a very public way.

As the lunch keynote speaker on “Revolutionary HR” at Colorado SHRM’s 2011 annual conference, I implored the HR practitioners in the audience to take the stage back from the pundits, providers, analysts, and consultants. I advocated for unleashing and unveiling the amazing ideas that are inherent in the minds and hearts of our industry’s professionals. And much to the surprise of my speaking peers, I left that stage, returned immediately to my business, and focused passionately and relentlessly on empowering others.

Nobel Prize winning author George Bernard Shaw is often quoted as stating, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” He was so right.

It’s been nine years since that moment, and I’m immensely proud of IA’s support for the change agents residing within organizations of all shapes and sizes. Although we’ve all endured more than our share of change this year, I believe this may be the safest time in recent history to demonstrate humanity and humility by saying:

“I don’t know.”
“I’ll do better.”
“I’m sorry.”
I was wrong.

For those of you wondering if my draw to the absurd remains alive and well, my wife would be happy to share a nightly eye-roll as affirmation. In fact, drop me your most ridiculous business idea in the comments below and I’ll happily offer an eight second brand for your consideration.

We all have our gifts.

Written by:

  • Mark Stelzner

    With over 25 years of experience, Mark Stelzner has worked for organizations of every size and vertical. He has spent his career fostering relationships through attention to detail, natural curiosity, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.


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