Are you open-minded?

"I'm open-minded". It can be one of those throwaway lines that people say without really thinking too much about the meaning of it. Yet, if done within its true definition, it can have enormous benefits. Here's a scenario.

Alex had a great idea. It’s a bit left of centre but she'd done her research and built the business case. Yes, there’s a risk involved in terms of payback, but Alex isn't putting all the marketing budget into this one new idea. She's requesting a budget increase but it’s modest. Internal policy means her manager will have to sign off on the proposal due to the budget increase.

Alex has worked with her manager for over 12 months and he’s a pretty good guy. He’s not technical though, and Alex has heard some comments from him recently that suggest keeping up-to-date with new digital marketing strategies, is not on his list of priorities.

With this in mind, Alex primed him a few months ago. She said she had a new idea that she'd like to spend a couple of hours a week working on that could provide the next step up in the marketing strategy. He agreed.

Alex sent her manager the business case document a few days prior to the scheduled presentation. The time has now come to present the business case (proposal). Alex is feeling very enthusiastic. Not only has she put a lot of effort into developing the business case including financial projections, but she's also feeling incredibly engaged with the possibility of this project being approved. Bringing her idea to life and imagining the results it could deliver to the organisation is motivating.

At the conclusion of her presentation he says “Terrific business case Alex. I can see you’ve put a lot of work into it. It’s quite a shake-up of our existing process which we’ve fine-tuned over many years. I’m open-minded though.”

The definition of open-minded in the Free Dictionary is “Receptive to new and different ideas or the opinions of others”.

If Alex’s manager is truly open-minded, in the Free Dictionary sort of way, then great news. It means he’s going to take a balanced view and come to a weighted and balanced opinion on the idea. He may say that the business case is inconclusive and requires some more work. Not a problem. Alex can ask what additional information he’d like to see, and who else may need to be involved. Or perhaps he goes straight to the next step which could be bringing a small team together to test out some aspects of Alex's proposal.

However, if he has used the word “open-minded” as a way to avoid challenging his current viewpoints, then he should be honest (especially to himself).

A far more honest statement would be: “Terrific business case Alex. I can see you’ve put a lot of work into it. I really haven’t spent much time reading it though because I’m not prepared to change my viewpoints (beliefs) about digital marketing. The reason I’m not prepared to change my viewpoints about digital marketing is because I don’t know much about it so it makes me feel a bit ‘out of control’.”

Okay, he’s very unlikely to say this out loud but it is likely the kind of dialogue that may be happening inside his head.

Have you ever been this manager? Have you been open-minded in the “fixed” mindset way? Challenging your thinking may open up new opportunities not only for your organisation, but for your team. Assuming the idea is in line with the organisation’s strategic objectives, then ask yourself:

  1. Do I need more information or input from others to weigh up the pros and cons given the technical nature of the idea?
  2. Are my initial negative thoughts on the proposal based on facts or on my own beliefs?

  3. What positive outcomes could be derived from this proposal not only for the business, but also for team members?

Be prepared to challenge your thinking.