How to adopt a beginner’s mindset

Have you had a first time experience during lockdown? In the past week I have attended an online funeral service, a virtual wine-tasting session, a zoom book launch and held client coaching sessions via video. They were all alternatives to traditional face-to-face meetings. Of course, they were not as good as the real thing. But they were better than nothing. I am sure you have your own examples of first time experiences. Perhaps you started a new job and you are meeting people while working from home. Maybe online meetings with interstate attendees have saved you time and money. Or possibly you have tuned into webinars, audiobooks and podcasts to learn new skills.

Leaders need a beginner’s mindset to experiment with these new ideas rather than trying to return to how we always did things in the past. The pandemic has turned the world upside down. We are all doing many things for the first time. Fundamental business models and strategies have changed too.

A recent Deloitte article attributes the term a beginner’s mindset, to Shunryu Suzuki (1904–1971), a Zen monk, teacher, and author of the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. The article quotes Suzuki’s opening sentence, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” He challenges the traditional ways of doing things to open ourselves to progressive thinking.

To incorporate a beginner’s mindset, the article suggests starting by considering these four possibilities:

✳️ What if my assumptions are wrong, despite the best evidence at hand?

If you feel you’ve developed a dependence on knowledge and expertise in making decisions, consider temporarily setting aside those accepted beliefs to welcome ambiguity and explore new possibilities.

✳️ What if what seem to be perfect solutions drawn from history are no longer relevant?

By constantly questioning the assumption that the present replicates the past, you can open the door to alternative possibilities.

✳️ What if I could wish for anything I wanted?

By establishing a wished-for end state— “I wish our products appealed more to older women,” for instance—you open an imaginative path toward this destination that also illuminates obstacles along the way, providing clarity to guide your actions.

✳️ What if my critics are right?

It’s comforting to ignore criticism, but you do so at a cost. What if what sounds like criticism is actually sound advice?

🙋 Which of these questions appeals to you to adopt a beginner’s mindset? 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian