Being right feels good. Being wrong can be costly. But what if that’s actually not the whole truth? What if you can be right and wrong at the same time?
My being-wrong with the Coliquio founders
This reminds me of a meeting I had a decade ago. Two men called Martin and Felix came to pitch an idea. I gave them 30 minutes because I “knew” their business model could never work. They wanted to create a new dynamic in the relationships among German medical professionals. And I could see so many reasons why this wouldn’t happen.
But these two guys didn’t just have an idea. They had passion. And my scheduled thirty minutes quickly turned into three and a half hours. Many pivots and a decade later Coliquio is used by more than 180,000 German doctors to network and share knowledge. It is by far the largest doctors platform in the German speaking countries. It improves the lives of thousands of people every day, literally saving lives on many occasions. And it has a truly exciting future. So I was wrong about the idea. But fortunately, I was right about something that is more important than any idea. And that’s the people.
The founder’s magic mix: Intelligence, Integrity and Ambition
Successful founders need a whole range of qualities. Many of these are described elsewhere in my blog. But I consider three of them to be particularly crucial:
- They need agile intelligence to think creatively, and, just as importantly, to listen to others, to adapt their ideas and to make them relevant. It’s all about striving to be smart, not being right. Martin and Felix had an initial idea that obviously wasn’t perfect but their agile intelligence enabled them to learn, iterate and adapt. It enabled them to be smart, not just right.
- They also demonstrated integrity. They were candid from the start. They were prepared to admit their mistakes, proactively communicate problems and always remained open to feedback. This enabled them to move past huge obstacles, and most importantly to retain the trust of those working with them. There is enough challenge in pursuing an entrepreneurial activity without the added poison of duplicity.
- Finally, they had ambition. Ambition might seem like a double-edged sword. Some people find it off-putting. They worry that an ambitious person will stop at nothing to reach their goals. But when you combine ambition with integrity and intelligence it becomes a positive driver rather than a threat.
The mix is only magic though with all three ingredients. Intelligence and integrity without ambition is admirable but might not get you very far. Ambition and integrity without intelligence might be laudable but is no shortcut to success either. And intelligence paired with ambition but lacking integrity is simply dangerous. Martin and Felix did not only have passion. They have the magic mix.
Being wrong is an exciting journey
I have been on an exciting journey with Coliquio that I’m convinced has just started. Working on breakthroughs in digital health in order to empower physicians and ultimately help millions of patients is nothing short of exciting and inspiring. Having been wrong enabled me to work with passionate people on creating impact. On making a positive difference to the world. So, Yes! I am delighted to have been proven wrong by intelligent, ambitious people with integrity! Being wrong keeps you on your toes. And it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.