On our openness to change

How open-minded are you?  

Changing our minds can be tough.

People often need help to effect or deal with change. 

Change is a fundamental requirement to progress, but before we can even consider change there's something else we first need to address - our open-mindedness.

Openness is the key to understanding and only by allowing yourself to be open to new ideas will you ever stand a chance of making any kind of change. 

Openness to change

That's fine if you already have an open mind, but what if you don’t?

Closed minds are a problem in life and, almost without question, they are a problem we share.  

We all start off with our own ideas.  Over time our parents, teachers and our own curiosity will fill up our databanks with a world of preconceived ideas.  From what time we eat breakfast, to the words we use in conversation.  Literally everything we know, we know to be a fact.  

That's all well and good when we're all on the same page, but in life when was that ever the case?  

What if these ideas, these cast-iron facts we treasure, what if they are all wrong?   Or at least, what if they are not all right?

Albert Einstein

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

Keeping an open mind can be tough

Developing an open mind takes time and energy, but it's a skill worth pursuing.  It's no coincidence that many of the world's most successful business leaders possess open minds.

Before we look at how to open your own mind, it’s important to understand and identify individuals who have the opposite trait.  Like everything in life, there is no chromatic scale for open and closed minds.  There is no one or the other, but rather a spectrum which spans the entire rainbow. 

Most of us would like to think we sit somewhere in the centre, but the truth is unless you've actively learned to open your mind there's a good chance you're heavily in the other camp.

Here's a quick acid test. When you read that last statement which said you were more likely to have a closed mind than not... what did you think?  Did you immediately disagree and scoff at that statement?  Or, did you say to yourself... “hey, maybe I am?”

Can you guess what an open-minded person would say?  Go back and read it again until you're ready to accept another way...

Frank Zappa

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open.

If you're still with us, congratulations, you've identified the single most important element of having an open mind.  The ability to admit you can be wrong. 

It is this fear which makes closed-minded individuals so difficult in the workplace.  The absolute inability to accept one's fallibility is a risky mindset and can lead to catastrophic results.

It's easier to spot closed-mindedness in others

There's a good chance you already know who has a closed mind in the office or board room, but if you need some confirmation just look out for the following tells.

Closed-minded folk don't like questions.  Questions lead to options and given a choice they'd keep such options off the table.  

Instead, closed-minded individuals will make statements and try to keep questions to a minimum. 

devil wears prada - Meryl Streep

In meetings, in particular, you'll often find that closed-minded people have their own playbook of techniques and tropes designed to keep the status quo.  They'll often cite a lack of time and stress the urgency of a situation in a bid to keep their plan on track.  

Closed-minded folk are also good at talking, but they're not great listeners.  Depending on how great an offender they are they may try to present an authoritative stance and can come across as rude.

This further contributes to a toxic environment and it's part of their design. After all, people are more likely to tow the line if it means a lighter atmosphere.

By contrast, open-minded folks prefer questions and may even exhibit some humility in their responses.  Initially, this may look like a weakness of sorts, but in fact, it is the opposite.  Closed-minded people often lack humility because we gain it by understanding our own mistakes and learning from them.  

It is this understanding that makes open-mindedness such an asset in the workplace.  There's truth in the idea that failure is an asset.  It is these lessons which allow us to grow and every time we get back on the horse we do so with a little more humility.  Those of us with closed minds tend not to learn anything and therefore likely to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Malcolm X

Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.

How to counter closed-mindedness

The first step in dealing with a closed mind is to erase the trait from yourself.  You're still reading which is a great sign, but you have to understand that closed-minded is our natural default state and it can take constant effort to keep an open mind.

Once you have found your own inner ability to question the norm, the next step is to present the idea to others. This can be easier said than done and at first, it can appear like you're caving in, but with perseverance, your own efforts will demonstrate the power of an open mind. 

Try to open ideas up with questions and allow everyone to talk to prevent the die-hards from owning the room.  If you can establish a forum where everyone has the same amount of time to speak and which encourages questioning you can show everyone how important it is to be open.  The real key is leading by example and taking those first steps.

A.J. Darkholme

Always hear others out and remain open-minded; the day you think you know everything is the day you have the most yet to learn.

The world of coaching relies upon an individual's openness to change. The changes we need to make in our lives can be minute or monumental, but without the ability to accept those changes, they will not take root.  It is this simple concept, this simple fundamental proposition, which makes an open mind so important. 

Can you imagine a world where we’re all so adamant about our overwhelming self-righteousness that we cannot accept even the tiniest chance that we don't know everything? 

Sadly, for many folks that is precisely what they face at work every day. Closed-minded individuals will inevitably run the organisation aground and it's likely that even then they won't be able to face the fact that it was their own closed-mindedness that caused the crash!

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About the Author

ALAN is CEO of CD as well as a qualified executive coach and a seasoned business mentor. He challenges progressive business people to step-up & realise their vision.

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