Have you ever been wrong?

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Monday 24 June 2013

I will begin this post by assuming that all of us, including you, have been wrong at some stage in your lives. The title of this post is more asking whether you have ever been spectacularly wrong. Perhaps on some issue of technology, a prediction in politics, or some factual matter where you have come unstuck after further information was revealed.

I am going to reveal something towards the end of this post, something on which I have been spectacularly wrong. Not just a little bit wrong, but a matter on which I could not have been more wrong. Suffice to say, it was so wrong, that even the weatherman couldn’t believe it.

Before I do though, I thought I would highlight a few other more public (and perhaps apocryphal) quotes where it appears CEOs of large American companies have been spectacularly wrong about some new technology:

1. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” said by H. M. Warner of Warner Bros. in 1927 about the possibility of moving on from silent movies.

2. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” said by Thomas Watson the chairman of IBM in 1943.

3. “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night” said by Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox in 1946.

4. “No one will need more than 637 Kb of memory for a personal computer – 640K ought to be enough for anybody” said by Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO in 1981.

So now that I have got those out of the way what was the quote that I said? What was my prediction that proved so spectacularly wrong?

In 2009 I wrote this blog post when a new television show came out. It expressed my disbelief at how such a show could ever make it. It was based on the fact that I found the show boring, and that this particular show had almost no viewer participation, and no similarity to previous shows in that style.

I actually went around telling people that this show would be “off the air in a matter of months” or “I will give this type of show one season. People don’t want to watch cooking competitions where you can’t taste the food”. What was the show?


Here was the main point of the blog post I wrote:

“But my real question is why (is the show so popular). In an age where we all want to be the judge of everything, not limited to, but including who is the best singer, dancer, hunter, and pouter, why have we given over our capacity to judge to three men simply because they have the unique ability to contort their face based on their sense of taste? But more significantly considering this loss of power to judge and decide, why is this show still so popular?”

Since that time, this show has gone around the world and spawned dozens if not hundreds of other similar kitchen dramas. These include Junior Masterchef, ApprenticeChef, NotsogreatChef, Celebrity Chef, My Kitchen Rules, My Kitchen doesn’t Rule, Hell’s Kitchen, Heaven’s Kitchen, So you think you can Cook, America’s Top Idol Chef, Australian Ladel and the list goes on.

But my original question from the post remains – why are such shows so popular?

(The only comfort I take in all of this is that it appears, given ability to predict things, I have all the skills necessary to become the CEO of a large American corporation.)


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