How to be Radically Open-Minded

by Enrique Rubio

(in times of exponential change and innovation)

How to be Radically Open-Minded

Most of us like to see ourselves as open-minded. In the workplace, we claim to be open to our colleagues’ ideas and suggestions, and from time to time we even go along with some of those ideas rather than ours. As long as their ideas don’t compete with our paradigms, assumptions and preconceptions about how we see the world (“mental framework”), we might feel somewhat comfortable with being open to what others have to say.

The big challenge comes when we are dealing with great ideas that radically push our mental framework to a direction we might not feel comfortable with. Some of those great ideas might threaten the way we see the world, and therefore require a mindset willing to accept that what we believe might not be true. To keep up with the world’s pace of innovation and the ever-increasing level of complexity, not only do we need to look around, observe and be curious in order to find the most powerful ideas, but we also need to look at the lenses through which we see the world, because they might not be suitable for the existing reality. Those “lenses” are the equivalent to our mental framework.

If we really want to enjoy the power of collective full imagination and creativity, and the gazillion ideas that are lingering everywhere (and very often overlooked by the “lenses”) we need to be prepared to be changed. And that requires becoming radically open-minded, which also demands that we let people around us bring the “hidden truths”, the irrelevant data, their own analysis and opinions to the table in order to understand and decide on what makes sense beyond our mental frameworks.

By being radically open-minded we are not only open to others’ ideas or questions. Even more radically, we become open and willing to question and let others question our mental framework. It is almost as if were asking people to constantly prove us wrong. This could have two possible outcomes: 1) that we are indeed wrong about something and need to evolve our mental framework; or 2) that we understand its the flaws and find ways to learn and strengthen our ideas.

This is a very different approach to that use by many of those who call themselves “open-minded”. Such an approach implies that we are open only when there’s incoming information (ideas, questions, suggestions) that either proves what we already know or simply adds a layer of information to our existing mental framework. Even though this is a huge step in the process of becoming open to others’ knowledge and information, it is sort of a beginners’ open-mindedness.

The truth test to our patience, tolerance and character comes when we are comfortable enough to question what we believe, also letting others know, via our actions, behaviors and words, that we are fully open to their questioning. This is full and radical open-mindedness, and it requires a lot of practice to be mastered.

Some ideas to build a full and radical open-mindedness include:

1.Challenging the Status Quo:

  • Not conforming with what already exists and the way we see the world is essential to be radically open-minded. It is fundamental to be both focus and attentive to the task at hand, and also observant and curious of the world. There are many ideas waiting to be discovered and executed, and by challenging and questioning the status quo we will be able to unearth those ideas.

2.Diagnosing Problems Collectively

  • I’m sure you’ve participated in many brainstorming sessions full of “experts” in the topic at hand. Well, to diagnose problems and find solutions it is necessary to involve others that might not be the experts, but whose questions might guide the conversation in a more interesting direction. By inviting the “no experts” we are being radically open-minded to ideas that might shake our “expertise” and, therefore, create the setting for more imagination and innovation.

3.Shaking Our Assumptions

  • As I mentioned before, it is fundamental that we question our own mental framework (paradigms, assumptions and preconceptions) and let others do the same with us. Most people try to prove themselves to be right. And when they are fixated with an idea, the incoming information becomes either friendly (supportive of our ideas) or an enemy (opposite to our ideas). We rather have to be like scientists, who spend more time trying to prove their theories wrong in order to find all potential flaws.

4.Promoting Diversity

  • Similar to idea No. 2, promoting diversity means bringing people to the table whom we know don’t see the world like we do. Very often people prevent the flow of creativity and imagination by surrounding themselves only by those who see the world like the do. This is a huge mistake. It is by far more valuable and relevant to be more intentional about including as many diverse opinions and people as we can, so that the collective (and diverse) intelligence can unearth better ideas. This builds our tolerance and our radical open-mind.

Organizations and their leaders are right now confronted by a reality that’s a changing radically fast. This is hyper competitive world, full of people and companies fighting for attention, market share and the best talent. It’s almost impossible to truly understand and explain what’s going on with full accuracy, let alone to think that the way the world is today will remain static overtime. The only constant is change itself. These times require full adaptation and agility, and it all depends on the capacity of the organizations and their leaders to be radically open-minded.

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Enrique RubioEnrique Rubio is an Electronic Engineer and a Fulbright scholar with an Executive Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University. Enrique is passionate about leadership, business and social entrepreneurship, curiosity, creativity and innovation. He is a blogger and podcaster, and also a competitive ultrarunner. Visit the blog: Innovation for Development and Podcast.

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