January 2013: Develop a “Beginner’s Mind.”

It’s the beginning of a new year -- the perfect time to consider applying “beginner’s mind” to the challenges and opportunities in your midst.  Beginner’s Mind refers to an openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. It means letting go of what you think you know, and adopting an “I don’t know” strategy.

This is especially challenging for us as leaders because most of us earned our position (as well as respect) based on our expertise. Indeed, we are usually rewarded and recognized for knowing; having the answers. It’s hard to let that go. However, we need to recognize that our expertise is based on past circumstances. Today we are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, so what worked in the past may not necessarily work best today or tomorrow.

There’s a famous Zen saying: In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.  Today, think about one particular problem or opportunity facing you, your team and/or your company. Suspend your expert judgment, start asking questions as if you were a ‘beginner,’ and see where it leads.