Episode #147: Changing Your Mind

There’s a crucial principle for coming to know the truth, according to philosopher Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, namely, “Our ability to engage in continuous conversation, testing one another, discovering our hidden presuppositions, changing our minds because we have listened to the voices of our fellows. Lunatics also change their minds, but their minds change with the tides of the moon and not because they have listened, really listened, to their friends’ questions and objections.”

I read this line from Rorty in Deirdre McCloskey’s paper, “Economic Liberty as Anti-Flourishing: Marx and Especially His Followers,” published by the American Enterprise Institute.

I opened my session at Scaling New Heights 2017 in Orlando, Florida last week with this quote, and asked the audience if they have ever changed their mind on a significant issue?

What was the process you went through? How long did it take? Everyone has changed his or her mind on something. If you’re not changing your mind, you’re not using it.

As Nobel laureate economist Paul A. Samuelson wrote, “I’m willing to be occasionally wrong. But what I hate most in life is to stay wrong.”

Partial list of stuff about which we changed our minds 

  • In high school Ron was all for the Chrysler bail out (1979)
  • Offering three options for pricing the customer, supported by insights from behavioral economics and customer psychology
  • Hourly billing
  • Timesheets
  • Measurements and “what you can measure, you can manage.”
  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (not a theory, and useless with respect to intellectual capital)
  • Myers-Briggs and other personality profiles
  • Abortion, each of us in a slight different direction

Also, reading George Gilder’s book, Wealth and Poverty, back in 1982 made Ron change his mind on:

  • Keynesian economics
  • Milton Friedman and monetary economics
  • Ayn Rand and Objectivism [her last public talk bashed Gilder and his concept that capitalism was really based on altruism]
  • The importance of the entrepreneur for a dynamic economy

Thoughts on changing your mind

Changing your mind does support that notion that knowledge is only ignorance postponed.

Are people who won’t change their mind dangerous?

Ron is currently reading Pixar founder Ed Catmull’s book: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

Catmull worked with Steve Jobs for over 25 years, and said Jobs would change his mind, and that the reputation he has acquired after his death is often not justified.

We all suffer from confirmation bias, articulated in the 1960s by Peter Wason, a British psychologist, that is: We give lesser weight to data that contradicts what we think is true.

But our mental models are not reality, they are tools. They should be our servant, not our master.

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote: All truth passes through three stages:

  • First, it is ridiculed.
  • Second, it is violently opposed.
  • Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Ron would add: Fourth, I told you it was a good idea all along!

Listener Shout Out

Mark Gandy, Free Agent CFO, Loves The Soul of Enterprise Podcast so much he wrote this blog post.

Thank you so much, Mark. This means more to us than we can express in mere words. Definitely an HSD - High Satisfaction Day!


Ed Kless

Ed Kless joined Sage in July of 2003 and is currently the senior director of partner development and strategy. He develops and delivers curriculum for Sage business partners on the art and practice of small business consulting. Courses include: Sage Consulting Academy, Business Strategy and Customer Experience Workshops. Ed is the author of The Soul of Enterprise: Dialogues on Business in the Knowledge Economy, a compendium of a few of the episodes of his VoiceAmerica talk-show The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy with Ron Baker, founder of the VeraSage Institute where Ed is also a senior fellow.