Most people know only what they know, and don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t bother discovering what they don’t know. Some people know they don’t know, and yet deliberately seek not to know. This is aptly called wilful ignorance.

Being wilfully ignorant or deliberately closed minded is not conducive to creativity. It does not encourage curiosity, and thus not the spirit of discovery and learning that has brought us where we are today. The suspension of belief (of judgement, of the ego) is a fundamental part of learning empathy and being a productive member of a brainstorming session.

Many of us seem to spend a lot of our time and energy maintaining/defending our beliefs and world views. Instead of opening ourselves to alternate, challenging or contradictory information, we immediately rush into self-defence mode. We divide stimuli into ones that either support or challenge our established viewpoints.

Why is this? Are our self confidence, self belief, personal identities generally so weak that anything that vaguely challenges us immediately triggers a fight/flight response? The less sure of ourselves we are, the more defensive we become. We have all met people who seem to walk around with perpetually crossed arms!

Having considered an alternative and then clearly understood why we reject it is a good thing of course. Just because we are willing to consider or even understand a different viewpoint does not automatically mean we agree with it. Open-mindedness is not about blindly agreeing with everything.

Despite sounding like some namby-pamby new-age thing that is completely unrelated to the “masculine” world of business, perhaps self esteem is one of the critical factors in innovative, high-performance and mentally-healthy workplaces?

(And I mean healthy self esteem here, not the loud, fake obnoxious bravado we sometimes mistake for good self confidence.)