I attended a Learning & Development round-table last week where the main topic of discussion was about intellectual character. This is a relatively recent concept aimed at fostering good and productive thinking. The idea being that intellectual character is more than just a set of good habits and includes attributes pertaining to our personal beliefs about learning that influence the way we see and interact with the world. Essentially a person with a well-developed intellectual character is likely to practice effective lifelong learning and thinking.
One of the particular attributes that caught my attention was intellectual fair-mindedness. It is easy for us to listen to and connect with people who share the same view points, beliefs, value systems and ways of working as we do. However, listening and treating information fairly becomes extremely hard for us when somebody does not share our sentiments. Especially if the subject matter at hand is something that is close to us.
Our automatic reaction in many ways stops us from learning and growing as individuals. In other words, we block our own learning process because we want to hold on to what we believe is true. Intellectual fair-mindedness does not necessarily mean that we need to agree with the other person’s perspective or give up on our own beliefs but rather that we should seek to look beyond what we know and think about our thinking. Building our capacity to critically reflect on our own thought process and evaluate whether we are simply believing what is most convenient for us or whether we are actively seeking to understand.
It got me thinking about how we can encourage and build intellectual fair-mindedness within our work places seeing that we work in teams with a great degree of diversity and interact with a vast range of stakeholders.
So as managers, team members or colleagues even if we are employing communication skills out of our toolbox such as giving and receiving feedback or practicing active listening, the question remains to what extent are we actually treating the information we receive fairly and objectively and are opening ourselves to new thinking and discoveries?!
Written by Faye Ekong