On Having An Open Mind

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boris-joaquin

Boris Joaquin | ExecutiveChronicles.com

There are many benefits on having an open mind. Learning new ideas; the opportunity to have new experiences; the propensity to increasing knowledge and achieve both personal and professional growth; to give second chances and pursue better relationships – all these are just a few of the benefits of having an open mind, contributing to an overall positive approach to life.

Recently, in an innovation workshop I did with AES company, PMAP CSR Awardee, I asked them to pair up. Partner A to look at a particular picture and same goes to partner B. Then I made them both look at a mashed up of the two photos they first saw. When asked what’s in the picture, each has a different opinion affected by what they previously saw. This is what we call existing paradigms. And when we are fixated on an old mindset, almost always it’s hard to convince us on another.  In most cases, we want our people to experience a paradign shift if we want them to change or embrace a new culture.

As parents, we teach our kids to have an open mind in learning from school, meeting or scrutinizing people and in the changing circumstances if life. We also would like them to listen first and suspend their decision or judgement until they weighed every angle objectively.

This has worked very well with my youngest Julia, 8 years old, who absorbs knowledge and information like a sponge. She’s the type who waits for the yearly publication of National Geographic. She surfs the internet and scans TV programs in search for discoveries and exciting stuff. Now, here is the danger of having an absolute open mind. Like an open window or an open door in which bugs can enter the home, an open mind is susceptible to litter, junk, lies and deceptions, false information and misdirection. We eventually end up explaining and disproving. But it is also her open mindedness that compelled her to listen to us as well.

The open mind, like an open window, needs a screen to keep the bugs out. The mental screen is called “discernment.” It is an attribute everyone has. Discernment is the capacity to see differences. But if discernment is used foolishly, it can be a form of discrimination. Unless we want our open mind filled with all kinds of non-sense, we must learn to differentiate between what is of genuine value and what is junk. You might say that our discriminative capacity is like an email spam filter. We can set the parameters to filter out the junk and let in the useful information. An open mind, with a screen to prevent the bugs from entering, or a spam filter to block the junk, is a wonderful thing.

Another potential pitfall of an open mind is being susceptible to lack of conviction. Sometimes if we are overthinking or getting too many point of views on a subject matter or issue, this is what we call paralysis of the analysis.Too many conflicting ideas can enter an open mind and cause indecision. It is necessary now and then to close the mind, disallow any more input, make a decision and act.

Perhaps more important than having an open mind is having a mind that is capable of being open – or closed. A home would become cold or hot if the doors and windows could not be closed every now and then. And it would be awfully stuffy if they could not be opened.

We simply decide to open or close the window – or the mind. But, our decision must be made from intelligence and reason, not emotional reactions. An emotionally reactive person would likely open the doors and windows during a windy storm – or close the mind to beneficial information. The mind that remains closed hinders growth.

Now, this is me talking about having an “open mind” with an open mind. Because despite the cons of an open mind, these can obviously be dealt with and the pros of an open mind are just too important to neglect.

As Charles Kettering, an American inventor said, “Where there is an open mind, there will be a frontier.” Especially during these days where there are many options – complicated and diverse, we need new frontiers. We need to listen, to respect others and to separate our listening from our decisions and actions. For that, we will need an open mind.