Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Importance of Open Mindedness

Open-mindedness is a very interesting concept. The idea is that we build capacity through having a flexible commitment to plans, to regularly consider alternatives, adopt differing perspectives and assume that what was true in the past is unlikely to be true in the future (Daft, 2008).

Developing this state of mind as a personal habit, helps to prevent us atrophying, and avoids us getting stuck in methods, practices and theories which are outdated or have stopped serving us.

Open-mindedness is not a new idea. The following example, about a naval officer who is getting along in years, is a great illustrator, from 100 years ago:
Very young ensigns often had amazing short cuts in navigation, which he hadn't. He knew those were the better methods, but he followed his own worse ones, as good enough for him. In short he was middleaged and knew he was. He was openminded, in that he was glad the time-saving computations had been invented, but closeminded in that he felt his ways good enough to last out his day. In short he accepted with equanimity the evident fact that he was becoming a back number, and wished well to those who were superseding him. This seemed a reasonably openminded attitude, combining as it did acknowledgment of his own limitations, and acceptance of his own past, with some appreciation of new ideas (Mather, 1919, p. 17).

Mather goes on to say that letting go of fixed and less useful ideas allows us to develop "a boundless hopeful curiosity" (1919, p. 19). What a delightful phrase!

You can watch a short clip on open-mindedness at:


We can develop our open-mindedness muscles by:
  • Listening to our language. Absolutes like "it will never work" and "but you always say that" are us bumping into our own close-mindedness. 
  • We suspend disbelief: just because something didn't work last time doesn't mean the time hasn't come for it to work spectacularly now. That doesn't mean we don't point out potential failures: it means we don't let the barriers prevent our attempt. We stay mindful about the pike syndrome (watch the video).
  • When we point out barriers, we also provide potential solutions.
  • We use different perspectives to consider issues, such as Edward de Bono's thinking hats (1999) to stretch our thinking muscles and prevent us getting entrenched in one approach.
  • We allow our curiosity to help us collectively learn. 
  • We try to approach things with a child's mind. 

Sam

References:
  • Daft, Richard L. (2008). The Leadership Experience (4th Edition). USA: Thomson South-Western.
  • De Bono, E. (1999). Six Thinking Hats. UK: Penguin. 
  • Mather, F. J. (1919). The Inside of the Open Mind. In The Unpartizan Review, Vol 12, No. 23 (pp. 16-23). New York, USA: Henry Holt & Company.

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