Being right is fun, it’s profitable, it’s correlated with better health outcomes (this sentence has not been fact-checked), and it generally beats the hell out of being wrong.
Luckily, being right is easy when you follow a few simple principles.
1: Disconnect your own emotions
When you’re emotionally invested in an outcome, it’s impossible to look at the situation rationally: your own biases and wishful thinking will lead you to weigh the evidence wrongly.
I’ve written about this more fully here.
2: Understand incentives
Incentives drive all behaviour. Understand the incentive, and you’ll be able to predict the behaviour that follows.
For example: To motivate a salesperson to perform better, you start awarding a bonus based on the number of appointments she sets up for field reps. What’s her incentive? To set as many appointments as possible. What will happen? The quality of the appointments will go down, and the field reps will waste more time for no better results.
Change the bonus so it’s based on the volume of orders the field reps secure, and the quality of the appointments will mysteriously improve.
Incentives often aren’t obvious, but if you can identify them correctly the result will be entirely predictable.
3: Find the person who’s wrong about almost everything, and do the opposite
I used to follow a betting system that involved seeing which horse a particular newspaper tipster said would win, then betting against that horse winning. It worked astonishingly well for years.
In any given field, there’s someone who manages to be on the wrong side of just about everything of consequence. Once you’ve found that person, you’re sorted: just do the opposite of whatever they suggest or predict.
And don’t worry – they’ll never improve or give up. They never do.
4: Go against the masses
Does everyone seem to have jumped to an agreement? Are alternative views never even discussed?
Then there’s a good chance everyone is at least somewhat wrong, and a better answer lies elsewhere.
Why is a strong, broad consensus rarely correct? Because as soon as it gets taken as “fact”, everyone stops looking for disconfirming evidence and anyone who does see such evidence has to be extremely brave to be the sole dissenting voice.
5: When you don’t really know, stay quiet
There are some events you can’t reliably predict the outcome of, because there are too many random variables – like the outcome of a football match. There are others where you’re not able to emotionally disconnect, or can’t root out the incentives.
In situations like these, steer clear from stating an opinion. It’ll only damage your aura of omniscience.