The Benefits of Approaching Problems with a Beginner's Mind

As a custom software development shop, we’re always interested in marketing. Enjoying the work we do, and talking about it is the best way to reach new customers.

One of the suggestions we often hear is that we should specialize; focus on a specific industry. My answer is we have. Our industry is solving problems.

On a recent trip with SuperChris, he asked “Do you sometimes feel like we know our clients’ businesses better than they do?” Of course I feel that way. In fact, if I didn’t, I should stop working on that project.

Solving Problems

We’re problem solvers. I can’t remember who said it, but the code is a side effect. We’re good at listening to someone who might not be technical explain a problem, mash it up in our brains and deliver something that makes that process better.

Enter Beginner’s Mind

In Zen Buddhism, there’s a concept called “beginner’s mind”, or Shoshin. Wikipedia defines it as:

… an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

When you focus on a particular industry or niche, you lose the beginner’s mind. You lose the ability to have a clear head. You’re carrying the baggage of existing limitations, workflows, processes or vendors. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Opportunities for innovation exist in a million industries in a billion facilities around the world. What’s holding you back? Try to think like a beginner and less like an expert. Listen to beginners. Explain a process to your spouse or to a new hire, and listen when they ask “Why?”

You just might learn something.

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