The Power Of Being Wrong

Matt Brown
Matt Brown

As an editor of, it's my job to bring you thought leadership, business intelligence and best practices for a rapidly changing and highly competitive channel.

This information allows you, as a top executive, to be more efficient, get better results, form stronger partnerships and grow in a meaningful and sustainable way.

When I started writing this blog, I intended to complain. The phrase "on premise" was driving me crazy. Instead, I learned (again) about the importance of consultation and the power of being wrong. It's a lesson I've learned dozens of times as a journalist.

Some niggling little doubt in the back of your mind? Call someone and run your thoughts by them. Get feedback. Ask, am I on the right track? Is this a ridiculous idea? If I write this will I sound like I don't know what I'm talking about?

I was sure "on premise" was simply a mistake. What industry folks mean to say when referring to technology physically installed at a particular location is "on premises."

Premises is one of those words that's always plural, like scissors or jeans. Think Yosemite Sam: "Now haul your carcass off of my premises!"

Premise, while spelled and pronounced similarly, is a term from logic that has nothing at all to do with land or buildings. It's not the singular form of premises.

I intended to write a blog that would ruffle feathers; that would scold and embarrass you. How can you expect to be taken seriously, to make effective, convincing presentations and close big deals if your materials, talking points and everyday speech are full of simple errors that make you sound like a rube?

You don't get to co-opt a word erroneously and then shrug it off as a trade term, either. Wrong is wrong.

Still, I wanted to make sure, and I'm glad I did.

I emailed several English and linguistics professors, as well as Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker.

Pinker, an expert on language and language development, got back to me right away and reminded me of something writers are often unwilling to admit. Language changes over time, and we're the ones who make the changes. And the rules.

Not only are premise and premises related, but as you can see from this chart, the idiom "on premise" has actually been rising in popularity since the 1950s.

The pace of change in the channel is fast and getting faster. The stakes are higher, and the consequences are greater perhaps than they've ever been. The value of consultation – with fellow executives, with customers, partners or advisors – can't be underestimated.

It's easy for solution providers to become introverted, but that's also one of your greatest risks. If I had published the blog I originally envisioned, I would've been embarrassed. Pinker saved me from making a relatively small mistake. You'll be in much worse shape if you fail to reach out to those who can do the same for you.