I've been reading a lot lately and peeked into different areas that I usually would not peek into like "Zen practise". On this site I also found this quote that I definitely heard before:
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities,
but in the expert's there are few." by Shunryu Suzuki (1905-1971)
That got me thinking, is there truth to that? Well, as much as I'd like to say it is true, I came to the conclusion that it is partly true and partly not true depending on your own perspective of creativity for instance.
A beginner's mind is great for new ideas
When I started loving music by playing my first note on a guitar (roughly around 2004), when I started my education in Marketing (in 2009), the feelings I experienced where the same: I love this and I want to experience this throughout the next years as much as possbile and I did!
Motivation plays a big part in this and it stems not only from having fun or loving a field of profession, it comes from ignorance, because it's bliss (see what I did there?). When you know nothing, you are free. You don't know about all the problems, hick-ups or road blocks because you never seen them. All you know is that everything is possible. That's the beauty of it and that's why it's great to have people on your team that have a fresh and untainted view on the world and its wonders.
I give you two examples from the aforementioned fields:
Music: Have you ever tried out to play your guitar with a microphone? If not, you should try it, the feeling is great and the sound is unique. Ask a professional guitarist or a music student if he/she ever tried it. I'm curious what they would say.
Marketing: Have you ever tried to sponsor one of your private tweets or Facebook posts just to see what happens? I did and I promise it gives you a better understanding and learning curve than spending your company's money.
An expert's mind is great for pattern recognition
So the beginner's mind is great if you'd like to swim in an ocean where you don't know where to go. You might find a beautiful island, you might be bitten by sharks or you just drown. Basically it's high risk / high reward. It's great for generating new ideas, perspectives or simply for a steep learning curve.
What I've observed with an expert's mind is quite different and I have to agree with the quote above - when you know about stuff, you sure as hell know everything that goes not and you know those pretty few things that might work, but the possibilities are radically limited. That is beautiful in its own way and that is why companies hire professionals, because they pay for the expert's mind, they don't wanna lose money on the experiments of a beginner. Still, the combination of both is superior.
I have the great fortune to work with a lot of people who are experts in their respected field and people who are beginners and some may curse the middle ground but I highly enjoy the dynamic of it, because it forces me to have both views all the time.
When you talk to your superiors you are constantly trying to be creative, find new ways and question the status quo, you are practising the beginner's mind which can be brutally frustrating at times. On the other hand, the younger or inexperienced colleagues do the same to you and bombard you with new ideas, concepts and you have to use your knowledge to evaluate. The learning opportunity is immense. Sometimes you can use the advice you got from your superior, other times you can use the new ideas to build up your own concepts.
Let me give you two examples as well for this mindset:
Music: The best example for me would be songwriting. If you want to write a pop-song it is pretty simple on what the structure should look like, what and how many(!) chords you should use and what kind of vocal line. Of course knowing that structure and producing art that complements it or producing art that consciously acts against it, needs a good understanding of both worlds, about the listening and creating process.
Marketing: It doesn't matter if you plan a private party or an event for your company, money plays a big role. In most cases the factor timing plays a big role as well. So, event planning differs greaty in regards of experience of the people involved if you want everything to be tight and smooth as well as in budget. So just to pick one thing - food. Depending on your audience of potentially three to three thousand - how many vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant, gluten free people have you on your list? Do you have 3 or 5 courses over 2 hours or do you serve 7 courses? Is there a theme, will the food be a buffet or á la card (factor budget again)? I'd guess that if you put two trainees on the task the result will be different compared to putting two seasoned event planner on it. Try to plan the perfect event and then let a colleague look over it, I promise you, you haven't thought of everything (unless you are a professional wedding planner of course).
I think that the more we become grown-ups and the more we become senior we like to forget the beginner's mind and feel we are entitled to certain things and know it all. These are points in my view that can be (and should be) addressed with the practise of the beginner's mind. To come back to my first answer, it is a yes and no kind of argument about the value of the beginner's mind. What are your thoughts on it?
Thanks for reading!