The beauty of a flexible mind

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Last weekend I had the privilege of being in Oxford, listening to various topics being debated by Year 10 students.

What an amazing experience! What incredible flexibility of mind these teenagers were able to convey. I was so very impressed and indeed inspired.

It was an International debating final with students from seven countries, all debating using the British Parliamentary debating style.

For those of you who are not familiar with this type of debating, this is a quick summary of how it worked.

  • They work/compete in pairs and each debate has four competing pairs, each taking on one of four debating positions: Opening Government, Opposing Government, Closing Government and Closing Opponent.
  • 15 minutes before a debate starts they are told what position to argue (for or against – government or opponent) and if they go first or last (opening or closing) and what topic to debate.
  • They then have 15 minutes to agree in their pair how to approach the task. They need to work out a strategy, find arguments for their position and agree how to divide up the proposition or opposition between themselves.
  • Each person then gets exactly 5 minutes to put their case across and to respond to questions and rebut what others have said.
  • They are not allowed to talk to anyone else or do any research. They only have their own minds to help them.

It was incredible to watch them all as they absorbed themselves into the task, so focused and so open to considering a topic from either angle.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function – Scott Fitzgerald

You see, what they did is something we can all probably benefit from practicing more – and which we will absolutely have to be able to do to succeed in the future. Challenge our own thinking, step into someone else’s shoes, find a new perspective on a situation.

Want to futureproof your leadership?

Then train and stretch your mind to think new thoughts, to consider new arguments and ideas. Go a step further and come up with counter arguments to your own fixed ideas and “truths” and see what you discover, what new insights you are rewarded with. Push yourself to become a truly flexible, open-minded thinker.

By challenging our own thinking, we open our minds to new ideas, we listen with greater curiosity to the thoughts of others and we are able to expand our own previous intellectual borders and discover new frontiers.

There’s something very compelling and beautiful about such a flexible mind. It shows that we can solve any problem, overcome any conflicts and ultimately create a better world, at work and outside of it.

And just imagine what it feels like to work with someone who’s able to do that? Pretty amazing, right?

About the authors

Mandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, award-winning authors of ”The Team Formula”.

Their latest book, multi-award-winning ”Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions”, published by Financial Times International is a practical tool for building winning teams. You can download a free chapter of the book at www.leadingteamsbook.com

Praise for ”Leading Teams: ”Leadership is about effective conversations. This book is a very useful ready reckoner for leaders everywhere seeking the words and methods needed each day at work. Sanjay Gupta, CEO English Helper Inc, India

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