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“We can build cultures and institutions that celebrate humility and reduce the social cost for saying” “I was wrong.”

Social construct is ever present in our work cultures. The way we communicate, the way we work, the way we are rewarded or punished is all socially constructed. Every organization’s culture is created by people through their interactions, and it can be changed through human action. Sociologists believe that we create our own social and cultural reality, and this reality is often taken for granted as natural and unchangeable.

Have you ever noticed when a new employee is surprised by something that everyone else takes for granted? Why does this occur? What strikes the new employee

as so interesting that they ask the question? This is likely evidence of a component of the organization’s social construct. This is a benign example, and a more significant question is: What is the social construct in your organization’s culture around being wrong?

Assessing the culture on this single variable provides you with immediate insight into whether your culture is a learning organization. When mistakes happen, what behavior do you observe in the workplace? Is it a funny moment, do people rally around the objective, engage in sense making, or do people tighten up, lay low, and create excuses? What is the emotional temperature in the organization? Are team members anxious, worried, apathetic or are they aroused and naturally swing to seek solutions?

A second sign on how to assess whether being wrong is okay in your organization is by observing whether leaders and employees wear armor to work every day? This occurs when people are trying their utmost to protect their job, their responsibility and most importantly how they see themselves. This is learned behavior.

In my career, I would joke with colleagues that wearing a suit with a tie is simply a modern-day extension of a knight’s suit of armor. I shared that the tie – is their shield – to protect themselves. Obviously, a gross characterization in today’s world. My goal here is to ensure that you never see a suit in quite the same way.

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