The Wrong Answer

Are your staff stupid?

Have you ever asked them to do something so obvious that it simply wasn’t possible to misunderstand?  A nice, easy job.  Something they couldn’t fluff — if they only thought about it for two minutes — yet they still messed it up.

Do they ever come back with completely the wrong answer?

It does my head in when they do that.

But there is something worse, far worse still…

Sometimes the wrong answer isn’t wrong

Let me give you an example.  What are the next 2 numbers in this sequence?


1, 2, 4, …

Isn’t it obvious?

  • The answer is 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, the sequence is simply doubling.
  • Or maybe the answer is 1, 2, 4, 7, 11, the gap is increasing by 1 every time
  • Or maybe the answer is 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, also known as the connell sequence
  • Or maybe …

Sometimes there is more than one right answer. The wrong answer isn’t always wrong.

How do you cope with that?

When somebody confronts you with the wrong answer do you ask yourself who is wrong?  You or them or both of you or neither?  Do you listen to what they have to say?

How would you like your staff to spend their time?

  • Wandering around second guessing what you think the right answer is?
  • Applying themselves to the problem and coming up with an innovative solution?

Who is right, you or them?

Tragically we only realise that their wrong answer could just be right by questioning our own answer.

Which is hard, particularly if you — like me — are never wrong.

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Wrong Answer

Read another opinion

Image by buncee


  1. Hello James,

    Absolutely love the picture, cannot stop laughing. Love the simplicity, the zen-ness, of the approach!

    As for the question you pose, it is a great one. The challenge is that we are not conditioned to listen, we are conditioned to spar verbally. Honestly, do you listen, really listen? For what percentage of your day? Do I listen, for what percentage of the day? When I meditate, I notice that that best that I can do is to keep focus on one thing for say 30 seconds, then my mind is running all over the place. It occurs to me that my listening is the same.

    If you really want to listen, then I suggest thou ‘sellotape’ your mouth. When you are no longer concerned with talking, you have the space to listen.

    All the best

    • James Lawther says:

      Unfortunately Maz I’m not sure I have a roll of sellotape long enough

      • I agree with Maz.

        We find it hard to listen. Normally, we are only waiting for someone to finish so we can make our point.

        Not sure that sellotape will solve the problem. We need to get better at switching our brains to ‘receive’


    • As my Grandma used to say ‘There’s a reason that you have two ears and only one mouth’.

  2. Great point. Sometimes, bosses have the tendency to blame their staff because they are afraid to admit that the’re asking the wrong question. Or maybe, just maybe… There are other explanations that will unveil only if we start listening.

  3. Mark Young says:

    I believe you should value the opinions and perspectives of those around you. They may see things more clearly than you do. Also, its not necessarily knowing the answers, but knowing which questions to ask that will get you where you need to be. Thanks for the article.

    • James Lawther says:

      I think that is an interesting point Mark, knowing which questions to ask…

      Tragically, despite 20 years experience, nobody has ever thought to teach me them.

      There is probably a lucrative consulting gig in there for somebody somewhere

  4. James,

    I love the image… you couldn’t have summed up the post any better than with that picture!

    Having the wrong answer might be ok if you can explain how you got there, i.e., perhaps a little creative thinking outside the box? Shows initiative, creativity, a desire to break the mold, etc.

    Annette :-)

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