Good Leaders Keep an Open Mind

Good Leaders Keep an Open MindOne of my clients shared this YouTube Video with me this week and I couldn’t stop laughing. These two teenagers are trying to figure out how to dial a rotary phone and it’s hilarious to watch them try without success to do something that any of us over 50 takes for granted because it’s all we knew when we were kids. It got me thinking about why sometimes it’s so hard for people to learn new things and why other times it’s quite easy.

In the case of these teenagers, they are trying to learn how to do it with their current understanding of a phone – meaning how a smartphone works. They keep picking up the receiver and putting it down thinking they need to reset it. If they weren’t using their current frame of reference for how a phone works, would they have been able to figure it out sooner? How often are we prevented from seeing another way of doing something because we’re boxed into our current beliefs about what we “know?” Did their knowledge get in the way of learning? I think it did.

As we hit 2019 and look at our strategic plans, goals, and all the things we want to change or accomplish this year in our businesses, how will we execute change with old paradigms stuck in our heads? What are we trying to do that’s new or different using the old thinking or “context” from what we did in the past? Experience is good, history is useful, context is important, but how is it actually blocking us from seeing a way forward or learning something new?

Sometimes learning can be accelerated if we act as if we don’t know anything. This is sometimes articulated as “starting with a beginner’s mind.” Because two approaches perform the same function doesn’t mean they operate the same way. If we are trying to jump start our learning but are using our current knowledge as a launch pad what might we be missing? Just as our two teenagers found out, current knowledge got in the way of learning. Even the hints their parents were giving them didn’t make sense because they were using current context to make assessments. In other words, today’s “how” was a blinder for learning.

Take a look at your goals and make sure that you aren’t looking at ways to achieve them that are constricted by past best practices, or old ways of believing or outdated knowledge. There might be some opportunities to speed things up!