We hear it all the time: Change is good, change is healthy, broaden your mind, accept the new reality, and more. I don’t know about you, but lately I feel bombarded with memes containing those themes. A lot are funny, many are said, but most are superficial. Like all one-minute advice, you need to discern fact from fiction. More often than not I have heard that I need to be more “open-minded.” I’ll admit that I can be a little stubborn at times. I like to think that there is a reason for my hard headedness.
I was in college when an indelible mark was made on me by a professor talking about the need for continuous learning, and the popularity of espousing the benefits of having an open mind. He warned us not to have an open mind. Open minds, he said, let anything in, no matter how ludicrous or outlandish. With an open mind, you are without clarity—new ideas can take you down paths that do not contribute to your success. Neither do you want to have a closed mind. Those people won’t grow, and they won’t adapt to change. They tend to dig in their heels in at the first sign of disagreement and would rather die than be wrong. Some people think that being stubborn is close minded. I disagree.
There is a third state that is rarely talked about: the discerning mind. To have a discerning mind, there must be an irrefutable source of absolute truth. We need to have a basis of truth against which we decide if the new information is true and therefore worthy of incorporation or if it is false and should be rejected. Without question we accept that adding two numbers together will yield one and only one correct response. Any other response is false. We can’t operate on a system of relative truth, where your truth is yours and my truth is mine. I could make all kinds of crazy claims about numbers, and you can refute me all day long, because you know the truth about how numbers work. It doesn’t matter if I think numbers should behave differently, I should never be able to convince you that 2+2 equals something other than 4. It doesn’t. But if you were open minded, you might be tempted to believe my truth.
I encourage you to read, to learn, and to question your beliefs. We can’t grow and mature without doing that. But you also need to have confidence in yourself and your history. If you have created a successful business, you need to be confident in the decisions you made to get you there. But don’t close your mind to new ideas, and don’t think that adopting a new process or measuring your success is in any way saying what you did was wrong. Rather, it is trying to offer opportunities to build on what is already a strong foundation. At the end of the day, together, when we are all trying to solve the same challenges, we can often come up with a good solution faster when we work together than when each of us alone tries to solve it. So as we come up on the fourth quarter of the year, I want to challenge you to look around with a discerning mind and see if there is something you can learn and apply to your business.
Scott Williamson, CAE, MBA, is the president of Quality Outcomes and the executive director of the OPIE Choice Network. He can be contacted at [email protected]