Robert Poynton
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Good beats right

February 23, 2015 – 1 min read


In the past few months I have been making an effort to substitute the word ‘right’ with the word ‘good’. Why?

‘Right’ imples something definitive, certain, finished, complete, correct and singular.

More often than not, in everyday life, it is inaccurate and misleading to talk about ‘right’. Outside of maths (or other purely symbolic realms) how often can we really talk of the right answer? Is the campaign, idea, text, process, product or design we have come up with really the one and only ‘right’ one? Or are we just trying to sound important?

Talk of one right answer limits, curtails and closes down possibility. ‘Right’ kills improvement. If you have the ‘right’ answer you stop. If you have a ‘good’ one, you might yet make it better.

Right also suggests ‘wrong’. It polarises. The two are closely related, so as soon as something is ‘right’ then everything else (or more often, everyone else is wrong). Thinking in terms of ‘good and better’ (rather than ‘right and wrong’) leaves room for difference, variety, complement, nuance, growth and development. It allows and encourages more than one way of doing things.

My friend and colleague at On Your Feet, Gary Hirsch, took up improv theatre because of this. He loved acting but found it hard to remember the lines. Gary found that a script, by defining what was right, made everything else ‘wrong’, which paralysed him. When he discovered improv he found a world that was more forgiving, flexible, free, creative and satisfying.

So, whether I am right or not, I find this is a good habit to practice…

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