Going back through some blog posts in my reader from the last few days, I discovered this one from uber-blogger Seth Godin. In it, he writes:
Every person who encounters your organization for the first time comes with beginner’s mind. She knows nothing about yesterday or how hard you worked or your financing or what it took to build it. She’s here now, she’s first, let’s go.
Beginner’s mind is a powerful force because it is a gateway to the imagination, a wellspring of unexpected discovery. The person encountering the organization for the first time brings none of the cultural biases to her experience that you do. She doesn’t know about the history, the traditions, the politics or where “the bodies are buried,” and probably doesn’t care too much about any of that either. She wants to get connected, to engage, to learn.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. (Marcel Proust)
As an innovation leader, then, you have a opportunity and responsibility in building this nascent relationship. The opportunity is found in allowing beginner’s mind to teach you something you did not (or did not want) to know. The responsibility is to not “educate” your new connection about the “way things are,” but to give yourself permission to learn and to imagine the way things can be. Opening your experienced mind to the wonderfully naive and uninformed questions and perspectives of the beginner will challenge you to look at your world and yourself through new eyes. As the words of Marcel Proust tell us, this is the essence of discovery.