Dr. Rob Sheehan: Leading with an Open Mind


How open minded are you, really?

This is a question I have been asking myself since reading an interview with Adam Grant about his newest book, Think Again.

In his interview with Inc. magazine, Grant explains that most of us spend our time in one of three different mind-sets:

  • Preacher Mode: Persuading others to your point of view.
  • Prosecutor Mode: Trying to prove someone wrong.
  • Politician Mode: Winning the approval of others.

In each of these cases, we are convinced that we are right.  And unfortunately, we don’t have much room for hearing that we might be wrong.

Grant suggests a fourth option that may be more productive: Scientist Mode.

In Scientist Mode we look at a problem or challenge with curiosity and – rather than trying to solve it immediately – we develop a hypothesis: “Perhaps this solution would work.”

Grant says that in Scientist Mode, you “favor humility over pride and curiosity over conviction. You look for reasons you might be wrong as well as reasons you might be right.”

Scientists collect data to prove or disprove the hypothesis. If data prove the hypothesis incorrect then the Scientist changes their mind. This is not weak or embarrassing; it is a sign of progress.

Scientists are also interested in multiple hypotheses and collecting data on them as well.

So, in practice, if you have some ideas for responding to a challenge, label it a DRAFT when you share it with your team and encourage your team to come up with at least two other alternatives. Collect data on each option.

Grant reports on an Italian study in which entrepreneurs who were taught to “think like scientists” brought in 40 times the revenue compared to a control group.

It is hard for successful people – like YOU – to think that just maybe their great idea is not the best one. But, we all know that there are many times in our lives when we were 100% certain we had the right idea and that turned out not to be the case.

Putting ourselves in Scientist Mode every now and then can help us keep our minds as open as possible and make even more of a Mission Impact for those we serve.

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