Do you have a beginner mindset each morning?

The route to ‘knowing’ may be to begin each day with a novice-like possibility of ‘not knowing’.

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“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning,” said Meister Eckhart over 700 years ago.

How do you become a better manager or a prosperous entrepreneur? To start one could be like a stoic philosopher, or legendary investor Charlie Munger and flip the question around and ask: How can I make sure I fail? Being a not-listening, always right arrogant [lights flashing] expert would be a fast track to disappointment. In contrast, success leaves clues.

The value in deliberate practice and pattern recognition

The 10,000-hour rule popularised by Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell suggests that everyone from Taylor Swift (American singer) to chess masters to violin maestros get better because they put in long hours of deliberate practice.

Being able to recognise patterns has led 33-year-old Magnus Carlsen to be the five-time reigning chess champion. Pattern recognition leads to perking up intuition, about what will work, and what will not.

At work, people become more productive and engaged when they are allowed repeated attempts and get fast feedback. Weekly check-ins with a supportive supervisor are an absolute requirement for increasingly better performance. The impact of traditional annual performance appraisals is limited, with research showing half of those appraised, are often more confused after going through the almost ancient ritual.

It’s all connected

Everyone from the influential jovial mystic Sadhguru, to the Kenya-based, writer and explorer Michael Asher will stress the inter-connectedness of things. Asher talks about how nomadic Bedouins perceive their harsh desert environment differently, realising that to survive, and even flourish, the need is to be in harmony with the elements.

Business students are taught to assess organisational effectiveness using the McKinsey 7S framework. One element relies on the other, an organisation is only as strong as its weakest link. Confusing strategy with a plan, or having a poor financial accounting system may spell impending doom, no matter how skilled staff appear to be.

Work at the edge of the comfort zone

Perceptive managers have the intuition to recognise that doing the same things repeatedly, doesn’t work. Success lies in doing tasks that are at the edge of one’s comfort zone. And, risk not knowing if it will work. Being too comfortable may be a signal that there is scope for challenging oneself.

Business awareness is everything. If you are not aware of something, does it exist? Somehow one needs to get out of their head and see oneself from across the room. Ask yourself, are you your mind? This is a tough realisation to get around, but perhaps all that ‘automatic pilot’ thinking is not productive.

Might be time to break out of the box, or at least peak around the corner now and then. Part of the problem is that the default programming in our grey matter is – ‘I am always right’. It takes a dose of corporate courage to be open to the possibility that one may be off track.

What works in one, functions in another

“A person who does not know the history of the last 3,000 years wanders in the darkness of ignorance, unable to make sense of the reality around him,” said the German philosopher Johann Goethe. Though knowing history in such depth may be quite ambitious, it helps to think across disciplines. Drinking from the shallow pool, of the century-long study of business and management may leave one thirsty. What applies in chemistry, physics, economics or psychology likely applies in management.

The principle of interdisciplinary universality suggests that fundamental principles or laws are consistent and applicable across various fields of study. Here the stress is on the interconnectedness and coherence of knowledge.

Insights from one discipline inform understanding in another. A classic example of this is Isaac Newton's third law of motion: ‘For any action, there is always an opposite and equal reaction.’

Business is tough, we may often miss opportunities that are right in front of us. And, it’s difficult to admit that the problem is not the marketplace, but the marketer.

All one can do, is to consider that the way to profitability and impact may be to master paradox. The route to ‘knowing’ may be to begin each day with a novice-like possibility of ‘not knowing’. “Ride the horse in the direction it’s going” was Werner Erhard’s thought.

David is a director at aCatalyst Consulting | [email protected]

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