Lessons inspired by the perspective shift that brought John Mackey to cofound Conscious Capitalism.

When you achieve a certain level of success and experience, you’d be foolish not to listen to the intuition that got you where you are. So how does one navigate the practical benefits of having a strong will and the keen focus it brings with the danger of it developing into a closed mind?

A question like this was posed to John Mackey in a casual conversation I had the privilege to be part of at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit a few months back. (If you didn’t know, John Mackey is the cofounder of Conscious Capitalism and the CEO of Whole Foods). As most unstructured conversations go, a lot of ground was covered as Mackey explained many of the lessons and perspective shifts that brought him to found Conscious Capitalism, a big part being the importance of having an open mind, which really means being able to change your mind.

As I listened, I realized there was a big overlap between what he was saying, our experiences in digital marketing, and well, life. In my world of digital marketing, more often we can settle disagreements by using the adage “Let’s test it” when there are different opinions among the team or even with our clients.

In the real world — of course there are situations beyond the ability of an AB copy test! Here are some tools I learned from Mackey that can help you keep an open mind and evolve your thinking.

1. Question your bias.

You have a bias. The person you’re talking to most likely has a bias. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t.

There are a lot of ways to describe bias. Rather than getting into that, what’s important is understanding that bias affects the information a person shares. In a personal conversation, it might be the omission (unintentional or otherwise) of all the details of an event. Think of how different people reporting what happened during an event typically see and remember different things. In a professional setting, it could be the omission of data.

The information and data shared by any individual, group, or business may be affected by bias, so it’s important to take a skeptical eye to separate the facts from beliefs or agendas. The individual must also reflect on their own personal biases, beliefs, or agendas to have an open mind or be able to change it.

Rather than attempting to be “unbiased,” recognizing and acknowledging your own biases can help you step out of your own perspective and uncover new truths.

2. Consider all the data.

Beliefs, goals, and agendas often lead to choosing only the data points that support the position (also known as bias). With the Internet and the number of articles, publications, and influencers who publish every day, it’s easy to create echo chambers that reinforce a belief or bias. We seem to have lost focus on looking for and at all the data.

Data is objective (this, of course presumes it hasn’t been adjusted or altered to accommodate bias). It doesn’t care about what you think; it only reports what happened. Considering all those people who witness an event, the reality is that there also were facts of the event: who was involved, what they were wearing, and what happened. That’s the data.

In digital marketing, data often reveals completely opposite outcomes than what was expected or desired. It doesn’t care about your campaign goals, creative investment, or larger company goals. It only reveals how close you were to what you wanted to accomplish.

Companies that embrace all the data are the ones who adapt, change course as needed, and then accelerate to success. But to do this, they have to consider all the facts, even those data points that don’t  support or reinforce their beliefs.

If you want an open mind, it’s essential to get out of the echo chamber and objectively look at all the data. Doing this, you may find yourself faced with being wrong. That brings us to the third and final piece of what it takes to have an open mind or be able to change yours.

3. Foster humility.

What do you do if you suddenly find, after reviewing all the data, that you’re wrong?

First, you need to have the courage to admit that you were wrong. This should be seen as a strength and not a weakness. Being able to look at data and adjust your thinking to evolve your perspective is a sign of incredible strength. It shows you’re committed to facts, not your own bias and world-view.

Are you ready to change your mind?

The benefits of being able to change one’s mind — and keep an open mind — are abundant.

  • It’ll help you in business and in your personal life.
  • You’ll find you have more and deeper relationships with family and friends.
  • You’ll be in a position to advance your career faster, make more money, and find more connection in life.

Yeah, the benefits are big, but changing your mind can also be challenging. Mackey had a good tidbit of advice for us: “If you’re married or getting married, you’d better get ready to change.”

As I’ve thought about it (and yes, I am also happily married), it’s good advice not just for marriage but also for creating a successful career, business, and life.

Dan Golden

Dan Golden is a veteran digital marketing executive, entrepreneur and business innovator. As President of digital ad agency Chicago-based BFO, he has built a business model on employee empowerment and giving back to the community.

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