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1/06/2006

I resolve to change my mind


Reggie McNeal is an "intuitive futurist" and author of The Present Future, a book that looks at significant changes facing protestant churches in North America. While his message ostensibly targets those in church leadership, McNeal is a master at getting people to think differently and I want to share a challenge he recently tossed on my table.

Near the end of an intense two-day seminar, Reggie posed a question he promised would not be easy to answer. He said the question "would not go away" and that we'd be thinking about the answer for a long time.

To a room full of people quite comfortable with new ideas and different directions, he asked:

    What [have you] changed your mind about lately?
My initial response was something like, "Well, that's easy," and I started to make a mental list of new things I'd recently learned. After all, I'm the guy who helps companies find new ways to do things so this was going to be a snap. I change my mind all the time - or so I thought.

The challenge

Many of us are very good at acquiring new knowledge and applying it - with great benefit - to existing behavior and strategies. We adapt when our environment changes. I've developed a pretty good knack for anticipating change and adjusting before it arrives. My Strength Finder profile describes me as being "more comfortable in the future than the present."

But Reggie's question goes deeper than all that. He didn't ask if I'd applied new knowledge to old ideas, or even new knowledge to new ideas. To rephrase his question:
    Have you recently discovered that an assumption you keep, or a belief you hold is based on knowledge that is no longer true?
A friend of mine who had, for many years, publicly advocated a controversial practice in his industry recently made a 180-degree turn and is now agreeing with those who criticized his policy. It's a major change and when I wrote to ask what contributed to the decision, he shared some evidence he'd come across convincing him to change his mind. It wasn't a case of "joining the opposition" or "going with the flow." He admitted that his previous position was no longer valid.

So?

You shouldn't be able to come up with a quick answer to McNeal's question. I think he posed it as reminder that success in the future will require you to vigilantly examine your assumptions against current realities. What works today will not work tomorrow and trying to build your successful future with today's ideas is a recipe for failure.

Exercise

I've been told that readers to my longer articles appreciate the two or three questions I pose at the end of each installment. I regret not doing so this time. Instead, I want you to save this article and read it - slowly - each day, for a month. IF you do come across something that might pass for an answer to Reggie's question, drop me a line and share it with me.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It is very difficult to do a 180 and most of us do it in 15 degree increments. There are very few "aha" moments but keeping an open mind and trying to hear what others are saying makes it possible to realize that one person does not have all of the correct answers. Recently I sent my superior an email saying I thought we ought to use Google side ads as a way to get our name out in the public more. A week later I read an article in Wired about the way competitors were clicking on the ads in order to run the advertising costs up for companies that were using them. Needless to say that was a quick 180.

Jim Seybert (on FoolsBox) said...

Congratulations on stepping outside traditional channels and congrats on being able to admit that your new idea had some problems.

Changing your mind is more humility than anything else.

Be proud of your humility [smile].