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Only by challenging our current thoughts or the status quo can we find new answers for the evolving challenges we face. Welcoming the failures as windows to success is vital to reaching our desired outcome. So try on a new pair of lenses when you next run into thinking that provokes you.

With the recent violence over speech in the world right now, I have been thinking a lot lately about what the common denominators are among diversity of thinking, freedom of speech and mutual respect:

  • Diversity of thinking promotes listening and really hearing what others have to say devoid of our personal filters regarding the message
  •  Freedom of speech is protected by our constitution and is one of the hallmarks of our democracy… citizens have a right to speak what is on their mind, regardless of the message.
  •  Mutual respect dictates that while we may not share the same belief system, perception, perspective, culture, history or experience, the person sharing the message deserves to be respectfully heard.
  •  Likewise the messenger may not share the same belief system, perception, perspective, culture, history or experience with their audience but it behooves them to be sensitive to what might be considered provocative.

 Why is this important to understand?  We know from 60 years of research on creativity that the best solutions are ones which encompass all of these considerations.  The “messenger” is someone who may impart some wisdom, new insights or further understanding to us regarding the issue in play. Having the right and ability to do so makes all of our lives richer.  More often than not the “messenger gets shot”, unfortunately quite literally in today’s world.

Why is that?  Well if the message is positive or agrees with our own perspective its great, isn’t it.  We can pat ourselves on the back and say yep, we are measuring up to all of the benchmarking standards.  We all want to be right and believe we are doing the very best we can and society reinforces that notion with its focus on bottom line results instead of big picture opportunities.

 But what if the concepts presented totally knock down our most basic and beloved beliefs and challenge the tenets we hold most dear?  In fact, what if it challenges the very core of our belief systems? Well that has actually happened over and over in the world’s history and is the most valuable thinking skill man possesses, the ability to challenge his/her own thinking.

 Had that not been the case, we might still be holding these core beliefs:  That the…

  • Sun goes around the earth while Nicholas Copernicus proved the earth went around the sun
  • Alchemy could make gold by combining different elements
  • Peptic ulcers were linked to the stress of modern life rather than a bacterium.
  • Earth’s continents were stable and did not move, neither expanding nor contracting
  • Earth was just 20 million to 40 million years old vs. 4.55 billion years old.

What  “beliefs” are you willing to challenge?  

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