StrategyDriven – Five Steps to Adopting a Beginner’s Mindset for Your Business

January 3, 2022

Businesses often hire consultants to take a “fresh look” at things. It’s usually helpful to add an outside perspective to the inner workings of a business. But what if you could add a fresh perspective without having to outsource?

A beginner’s mindset is a Zen philosophy based on this logic: if you think you’re an expert, you’re more likely to dismiss the most obvious answer. And sometimes it’s the obvious answer that solves the problem.

When I’m new to a team or a company, I use that beginner’s mindset to learn by asking questions, understanding why things are done a certain way. Through that understanding the team and I can then develop new solutions that save time and money or create greater efficiencies or develop better processes. Here are a few ways you can implement this with your teams.

Break it Down

If a business process seems broken, analyze each step. Start with the basics.

Author James Clear emphasizes a beginner’s mindset for productivity in “Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results.” According to Clear, successful habits are developed gradually. For example, if you aspire to be more physically fit, you should start with a simple goal of putting on your running shoes several days in a row. The first two minutes make or break any habit, Clear says.

At Freeman, we streamline our supply chain by taking a beginner’s mindset and breaking down the process. The first step was to manage our inventory. Eventually, we transitioned to a national model with eight regional fulfillment centers, evolving from a local market model to a regionalized footprint.

Focus on the Why

Let’s say you own a car dealership and sales for compact cars are declining. Instead of brainstorming about promotions or marketing, you could ask your team: why do we sell compact cars? You might discover you’re selling them because they were popular 10 years ago, and nobody stopped to consider whether that was still the case. Asking the simple “why” brings you back to the beginner’s mindset, allowing you to reexamine your procedures from a fundamental perspective.

Remove Fear of Failure from the Equation

Fear of failure is one of the biggest obstacles people face in work and in life. People don’t worry about being perfect during their first day on the job, because they don’t know how to do anything yet. If you don’t know how to do something, you can’t fail — that’s the mindset you need. If you’re stuck, write down everything that could possibly go wrong, solve for it — then go forward.

Forget Perfection

Perfection is not the goal of the beginner, as beginners simply want to learn and get better. This is the key to success: constant improvement. Because perfection is impossible, holding yourself to that standard will only disappoint you.

Nobody has ever created a perfect company, nor trained a perfect employee.

Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

Get Up if you Fall Down

Remember when you learned to ride your bike? You were a beginner. You knew you’d fall. But you also knew it would be impossible to learn how to ride unless you climbed back onto the seat. This lesson applies to the business world. Every failure is a learning experience that will help you achieve your goal, just as falling off a bike was a learning experience that taught you how to ride.

Nobody is ready to fall. But the more you fall, the better chance you have to succeed.

As Arianna Huffington said, “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

How can you apply a beginner’s mindset to your business?

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