Monday, October 8, 2012

Better by mistake: The unexpected benefits of being wrong

Better by mistake: The unexpected benefits of being wrong
By Alina Tugend

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II

This is an excellent book.  Not only is it well-written and well-researched, but the narration flows smoothly, and the research is incorporated easily and unobtrusively.

In seventeen pages in half the font size of the text, she includes a wonderful and quite extensive set of notes.  Her bibliography, in the same reduced font size, extends for eleven pages.

Tugend truly knows what she is talking about, and not only does she offer examples with which all readers can identify, whether it is in raising children, in the workplace, medicine, aviation, genders, cultures, or individually, her insights and conclusions are on the mark.

I have used the research (the five dimensions) that Geert Hofstede, the Dutch psychologist, “has done over the years to identify and explain variations among societies” (p. 203), in my textbook, Communicating Effectively, 10th ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2012) for many years, and I was pleased to see Tugend’s endorsement of them.  She said, “Nonetheless [despite his dimensions being “critiqued for failing to take into account minority societies within a dominant culture” (p. 205)], his work has proved very useful, and has withstood the test of time, in helping understand important cultural differences” (p. 205).

His examples of Hofstede’s dimensions are clear and helpful, and I plan to use one of them (with permission, of course), as a “Consider This” box or as an “Active Open-Mindedness,” or “Another Point of View” supplementary box.  That is how good her material is.

I also appreciated Tugend’s continual reminders about how we (her readers) can successfully deal with mistakes, or how they can be dealt with in the various areas she writes about.  In her “Conclusion,” she summarizes her advice by saying, “We all make our share of those [a faux pas or blunder], and that’s okay also.  But if we can all forgive ours and others’ errors more often, if we can acknowledge that perfection is a myth and that human beings screw up on a regular basis—and we can either simply feel bad about it and find someone to accuse or learn from it—then swe are on the right track.  Make no mistake about it” (p. 252).

This book is a “must read” for everyone.  There are “unexpected benefits of being wrong” that all people need to read.

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