The Erravi Moment. (Episode 70)

The Erravi Moment. (Episode 70)

Interview with Stephen Prendiville, Head of Sustainability for EY in Ireland.

We all know of the “Eureka Moment” – that moment when we have a great idea. Eureka is ancient Greek for “I’ve found it”.

But have you heard of “The Erravi Moment”?

Erravi is Latin for “I was wrong” and “The Erravi Moment” is when you realise that a position or a perspective you’ve had, perhaps for a long time, is in fact, wrong and you change your mind.

If we are going to create positive change, we have to become much better at admitting when we have been wrong.

I spoke about “The Erravi Moment” with Stephen Prendiville. As Head of Sustainability for EY in Ireland, Stephen is at the centre of Ireland’s transformation to a sustainable society. This sustainability transformation we are now in the middle of is, arguably, the biggest change that humanity has ever attempted to make. It affects all businesses, consumers, systems, groups and people, is a massive transformation, and it is (now) happening quite quickly.

Some people have, of course, been lobbying for a more sustainable way of doing business for decades, but for most people, the insight that we need to do something drastically – and fast – has hit home more recently. Millions of people have had their “Erravi Moments” in the last few years when they woke up and said to themselves “I was wrong. Climate change is real, we have to do something about it, and I need to change too.”

The Erravi Moment around climate change is significant – hundreds of millions of people changing their mind about how business and society should be run in a short span of a few years – and it’s inspiring to see it happen. In Stephen’s view, we may be witnessing not only the Erravi Moment for huge numbers of people, but an Erravi Movement as well, as the newfound “freedom” gained by admitting to our prior mistakes and failing, is unlocking new innovation and creativity to attack the climate change challenge.

As human’s we have a demonstrated capacity for Erravi moments.

One of my favourite Erravi Moments happened when I, many years ago, worked in night clubs as a Blackjack dealer. At that time the Swedish government introduced a law that banned smoking in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. I remember saying “That is never going to work! People who go out to party want to smoke!” And there were many of us in the nightclub scene who were confident that it would never work.

And yet the law was introduced, people continued to party, and (virtually) everyone thought it was a great idea to not smoke inside. And I could finally come home from nightwork not smelling like an ashtray.

I was wrong.


Stephen recalls the public debates and the heated exchanges, the virulent public campaigning by both sides of the Smoking Ban in Ireland in 2004. He remembers the collective Erravi on many Monday morning radio shows after the first weekend with the ban and how over the subsequent years new habits formed quite easily. Unfortunately, climate action will change a lot more of our society than the smoking ban, affecting everyone in many different ways, and where the benefits of the changes will not be visible the following Monday morning.

We don’t necessarily need a public health crisis or even regulation to push Erravi moments. Take the idea that many companies held that we had to meet in person, or that people had to come into the office to work. Then a pandemic came along and millions of people realised that many in-person meetings could just as well be done via Zoom, and that it worked very well to work from home for many tasks.

All these people woke up one day and realised: “I was wrong!”

“Admitting to having been wrong is an act of bravery”, Stephen said to me in our conversation. He reflected how people often try to get others to change their minds by telling them that they are wrong, but seldom do we change our minds because someone else tells us to do it. Instead, we have to create an environment where people can come to the Erravi conclusion themselves. Stephen highlights that “this is the overwhelming challenge with our climate change situation today; we are dramatically running out of time to take positive necessary actions. As a result, we are squeezing the necessary time and dialogue it takes for people to have Erravi moments on their own – which ultimately can make the entire change requirement that much more difficult to achieve.”

I asked Stephen to give me some advice on how to best accelerate the Erravi moment for sustainability and climate action:

In summary he said:

1) Have deeper conversations with people now and at every opportunity.

Conversations that are honest and non-judgmental. Blame and high horses will not help people change their minds. We can’t shy away from this discussion. It needs to get heated and it needs all sides engaged. This isn’t the responsibility of just the politicians – it is something for all of us to engage in.

2) Incentivise easy change.

Make it easy to make small changes. So many easy things that can be done to fight climate action that need to simply be enabled with incentives. Solar panels, EVs, insulation of houses. There should be no barriers to these items being advanced for those that wish to do so. Similarly composting, repairing and returning consumables, clothes and other things.

3) Give them space to make the change themselves.

To change one’s mind – to really take a different position than before, to admit to having been wrong – is not easy. For most people it’s very, very difficult. So, understand that and give people the time and space that they need to become comfortable with this new belief. An example would be the electric vehicle movement. This is voluntary right now, but eventually it will be the only vehicle available to use. So between now and then we are giving people the space to make the change themselves.

Concluding, Stephen points out that with almost 40 years since the UN identified sustainability as critical to our future, our global climate action and sustainability response has fallen short on all measures. We need a critical mass of Erravi moments to break down those barriers that are holding back our collective creativity. There may well be someone that is about to have their Erravi moment, that will also trigger wider changes and innovations we need to accelerate our sustainability responses.

To err is human, and so is to be wrong.

We should admit to having had the wrong opinion more often. It’s healthy and refreshing.

Or to quote Joseph Chilton Pearce: “To live a creative life we must first lose the fear of being wrong.”

When was the last time you admitted, to yourself and to the world, that you were wrong?

What is the next opinion that you have that you now feel you are close to giving up?

When will be the next time you stand up and proclaim: “Erravi! I was wrong!”?

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