How ‘Radical Open-Mindedness’ Helps You in the Canoe

By Nathan Mersereau

Before you begin reading this blog post, I have a question for you: Are you open-minded to becoming a more open-minded leader and decision-maker?

Seriously think about it.

Still here?

OK, good.

Being truly open-minded to different ideas is incredibly important, but it’s not a quality that’s always as prized in the workplace as it should be. Many leaders like to think they’re more open-minded to alternative viewpoints than they truly are. For example, I can now see that when making critical business decisions, I historically would place greater value on my conviction and viewpoint. I wasn’t close-minded, per se, but I could get entrenched in a position when I should have been exploring options in conflict with my opinion. Perhaps you can relate.

But I’ve been reading (and rereading) famed investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio’s incredibly insightful book Principles: Life and Work in the last few months. And it’s not an overstatement to say that the book has had a profound impact on my thinking. Most notably I’ve been closely examining how open-minded I am in general, but particularly in my role as the president and CEO of a company.

Here is the section of Dalio’s discussion of “radical open-mindedness” that initially struck me and led me to adapt my way of operating when making decisions:

“Radical open-mindedness is motivated by the genuine worry that you might not be seeing your choices optimally,” Dalio writes. “It is the ability to effectively explore different points of view and different possibilities without letting your ego or your blind spots get in your way. It requires you to replace your attachment to always being right with the joy of learning what’s true.”

For me, practicing – and promoting – radical open-mindedness has been a piece of the leadership equation I just didn’t quite fully get before. It’s a concept that’s enabled me to become comfortable releasing my long-held grip on the false belief that when a solution was needed, I always had to have the answer because I’m the CEO. In short, radical open-mindedness has helped me check my ego at the door at the outset of important conversations and allow dialogue to evolve through conflict and creativity, leading to potentially better outcomes than I could have originally conceived. It’s both energizing and freeing to see healthy disagreements fuel productive idea exchange.

If you’re ready to explore open-mindedness, here are some quick tips based on my experience in the last several months.

Let your actions speak for themselves. You don’t need to walk into your next staff meeting by announcing that “it’s time for some radical open-mindedness!” Demonstrate openness to ideas through repeated actions, not words. It won’t take long for people to recognize, appreciate and hopefully model your efforts.

Embrace idea meritocracy. The best solution should win. Period. Job title and tenure don’t matter. Whether the best idea is a group effort or the spark comes from the CFO or most junior staff member, it’s irrelevant.

Make fewer statements and ask more questions. As I’ve said before, don’t be a hippo. Use your ears and strive to learn from your team. If you tend to view things in black-and-white terms, truly seeking to understand where others are coming from opens up a whole new color palette to you.

Get humble. Lower your guard. Be willing to publicly admit what you don’t know.

Don’t go to extremes. Yes, radical open-mindedness is highly beneficial. But don’t let yourself become so open to ideas that it paralyzes you from making a decision. At some point, you need to stop gathering information and analyzing different viewpoints and just make the call.

What’s your perspective on open-mindedness? Email me at nathan.mersereau@planningalt.com and let me know.


Check out this Day in a Canoe podcast with Ruth Zukerman, Co-Founder of SoulCycle and Flywheel, who had to embrace open-mindedness to navigate life and business difficulties.

 


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