Open mindedness is the willingness to listen to and consider opposing or contradictory views. People who are open minded are receptive to fresh ideas even if those ideas challenge their strongly held beliefs. Furthermore people who are open minded are willing to admit that they can be wrong. On the other hand people with closed minds do not contemplate ideas that contradict their fundamental beliefs. Instead they reject input that challenges their point of view and gather input which supports it. Most people believe that they are open minded but that is the first belief that they need to challenge.
Some of the benefits of being open-minded are:
- You can challenge assumptions and beliefs – both yours and other people’s. This means that you can see new possibilities in any situation.
- You can admit that you might be wrong. Many a powerful leader has been brought down because of his failing to admit that he might have been wrong. If you can open your mind to the possibility that all you held dear was wrong then you can take corrective action and recover the situation.
- You can learn. A closed mind erects a barrier to radical new ideas and is inimical to learning.
- You can understand others better because you can see their point of view as well as your own.
- You are more effective in teams – for all the reasons given above.
Being open-minded does not mean being gullible, weak or lacking in opinions. It means being receptive to the ideas of others.
Here is a little test to see how open minded you are. Sit down with a colleague and each think of a controversial topic on which you have a strongly held opinion. It could be to do with business, world affairs, politics, education and so on (I would avoid religion but almost anything else works). For your topic state your opinion and then have a discussion with your friend in which you have to put forward three strong arguments in opposition to your opinion. You have to propose the case that a cogent opponent would make. Say for example you believe strongly that it is a bad idea for young people to get tattoos then you must come up with three good reasons why young people should get tattoos.
How do you feel when you watch a movie with an ambiguous ending? People with closed minds like certainty, familiarity and clarity – they do not like fuzzy endings. Open minded people are comfortable with a degree of ambiguity. They are always willing to explore the new and unknown.
Great innovators like Walt Disney, Picasso, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson display open minds. They relish the opportunity that new and contradictory approaches might offer.
A good way to open your mind is to deliberately do new and different things every day for a week. If you normally read a liberal newspaper (or political website) then take a conservative one. Take a different route to work. Try a book or art gallery which you would normally not choose. For every situation at work ask yourself the question, ‘What if we were all wrong on this and the opposite were true.’ You will have an interesting week and your mind may be opened to enable you to seize an opportunity.