For many of us, our work lives are characterized by the following behaviors:
- A focus on getting our work done.
- A tendency to stay at our desks.
- Reliance on our expertise and the things we already know (because that’s what we are being paid to do).
- Collaboration and brainstorming with people who are a lot like us.
- Rarely looking beyond our walls for ideas and inspiration.
- Avoiding, at almost all costs, stepping out of our comfort zones.
- And a tendency to avoid people who are different than us.
There’s nothing wrong with these workplace behaviors, but they are not likely to enable us to create real breakthroughs, find the best people, build more meaningful collaboration, gain new customers, or become a better leader. They are the living and breathing, embodiment of a closed mindset and a guarantee that we will lead only incrementally to better work and personal lives.
Contrast these with the following set of workplace behaviors -- behaviors that we can and should be trying to incorporate in our everyday lives:
- A focus on finding the real potential in our work.
- Getting up and away from our desks to connect with colleagues in new ways and engage the world around us.
- Acknowledging the strengths and limitations of our expertise and seeking to find new knowledge and approaches that will make us even more successful (because that’s what we’re really being paid to do).
- Seeking out opportunities to collaborate and brainstorm with people who are very different than us.
- Consistently looking beyond our walls for ideas and inspiration.
- Looking for opportunities to stretch outside our comfort zones.
- And, seeking to engage with strangers -- especially if they are very different than us.
These are the living and breathing, embodiment of an open mindset and a guarantee that we will be more open to reaching our full potential.
Grow your Success at Work
Realize that our degree of openness to new people, ideas, and possibilities is something we can develop over time. In fact we can continue to develop it over our entire lives and careers as we turn new behaviors into consistent habits.
Think about all of the ways that you have become more “open” over the years, paying particular attention to the types of people, experiences, and sources of information that you now have a greater appreciation for. While many people believe that they become less open to new things over time and more “set in their ways,” my experience working with more than three hundred companies and organizations is quite the opposite.
Take the First Step
The biggest challenge is getting people and organizations to be willing to take the first step -- a step that is often as easy as getting up and taking a walk with our eyes wide open.
Since 2003, I have begun many assignments by teaching our customers to do exactly that through a process we call “Team Learning Adventures.”
At the core of this process is simple and energizing exploration of the world beyond our workplaces in which visits to other businesses, museums, neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, and artistic performances become an invitation to rediscover our innate gift of curiosity and the value of being open to new people, places, ideas, and perspectives. And a chance to discover the real power of strangers from all walks for life -- strangers who are vital to our success in almost anything that matters.
So now let’s see how to put an open mindset and these workplace behaviors into practice in the real world of business and the rest of our lives.
Reprinted by permission from the publisher, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand, from The Necessity of Strangers by Alan Gregerman Copyright (c) 2013 by Alan Gregerman.
Alan Gregerman is author of The Necessity of Strangers (Jossey-Bass, 2013) and President and Chief Innovation Officer of VENTURE WORKS Inc., a strategy and innovation firm that helps leading companies to unlock the genius in all of their people. His new book is all about the power of connecting with, and learning from, people who are very different than us. Connect with him at www.alangregerman.com.
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