Progress and an Open Mind to Change




The only constant is change. How often have we heard that phrase? So much so that it is a cliché, but also because it’s true. 

Change is inevitable. Writing nearly three thousand years ago, the ancient pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, famously said that “no one steps in the same river twice.” Why? Because the river has changed in that instant, and in that same instant, so has the person. 

It’s no surprise that change is one of the oldest topics in written history. Change is time. They are one and the same. With every second that passes, change happens. The two are fused together, as inseparable as matter and energy in Einstein’s universe. 

The stunning Stephen Spielberg-produced, Netflix documentary, Life on Our Planet, drives this message home. It argues that there are three “Rules of Life” that dictate the history of all life on earth: evolution, competition, and extinction. All three of these fundamental rules involve, or more accurately, create change. Change is inescapable from life — whether on the macrocosmic scale of our planet or in our individual lives. 

Adapting to change is more than just an option: it is a human imperative. Without the capability to accept change, we cannot thrive, we cannot be successful. Without the capability to adapt to change, life on our planet would have ceased eons ago. It is that fundamental. 

So, how do we give ourselves the best chance to accept and adapt to change? An open mind is the key. 

Nurturing an open mind to change

So, what is an open mind? At its most basic, an open mind is defined as being receptive to a wide variety of new ideas. Being open-minded means understanding that no matter how much you know or regardless of what you believe, there may be other explanations, or new facts that may cause you to change your own mind or way of thinking. The willingness to search for, entertain, and consider these new facts or evidence that contradict what you believe to be true defines being open minded. 

Cultivating a growth mindset

An open mind is essential to cultivating a growth mindset, which is rife with misconception. A pure growth mindset doesn’t exist, even for organizations where mistakes are acceptable. Indeed, those with true growth mindsets are often the most knowledgeable but also the most humble, as they always think they have more to learn.

A growth mindset does not view intelligence as fixed or static but rather, as something that changes, progresses, and grows over time in response to new challenges, seeking help from others, trying new approaches, and learning from setbacks. A growth mindset supplies the energy and determination that drives scientific and societal progress. 

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open. frank zappa

Benefits of an open mind

There is ample evidence that an open mind is healthier both physically and mentally. Among the most cited are the ability to learn new things, grow as a person, and become more resilient in the face of challenges. Research also suggests that open-minded people are more cognitively complex individuals who are less swayed by singular events and more resistant to manipulation. Open-minded people also tend to perform better on tests of cognitive ability such as standardized tests.   

So, open-mindedness is essential to a successful life, but why is it particularly important to all of us now? The reason is the emergence of AI in the public consciousness and how it will, like it or not, transform just about everything. 

An Open Mind and AI

Although it feels like AI sprang full-grown like Athena from the mind of Zeus just one year ago, the truth is that it has been around for more than 60 years. For decades, as we’ve interacted with chatbots, we’ve been interacting with AI technology and training it to, basically, converse with us. 

It is fair to say, however, that the seemingly overnight introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022 took the world by surprise. Suddenly, ideas that only appeared in science-fiction, seemed not only possible but here already or at least, just around the corner. Many of these concepts are dystopian, even terrifying, where runaway AIs overtake humanity. 

This is where a growth mindset is critical — as it has always been — to understand and adapt to change. That AI is here is a fact. Being open to its use is essential to learning how to control its development and ensuring that it will be used as a force for good. 

A negative knee-jerk reaction to AI is a classic example of being close-minded. It is the antithesis to being open-minded. Generative AI technology, trained on extraordinarily large datasets, offers the potential to address our world’s most challenging threats to our health, our global environment, and our security. Even more pertinent, in the marketing and advertising context, massive opportunity exists in AI to make workflows far more efficient, as well as improve campaign performance.  

Being open-minded means understanding that this is another profound change that we must learn to adapt to our needs, including placing the guardrails around it that will ensure that it remains safe for ourselves and our futures. The change is here. And we can never step into the same river twice. 

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