October 01,2019 Facilitating Innovation

Open To Experience

Open To Experience


Legends and myths have circulated for centuries on the effects of drugs enhancing creativity. Believed to unlock the mind and make it open to the experience. This has long been the calling card of artists and musicians. Recently, new research on micro-dosing supports these beliefs. Micro-dosing refers to significantly reduced doses of the hallucinogenic drug MDMA. The research has found that both convergent and divergent thinking performance was improved after slight cognitive impairment.

Similar research on alcohol found similar results. The study discovered that by drinking alcohol to a slight level of inebriation, that greater creativity was experienced. While these methodologies to enable greater creativity are controversial, they point to a key attribute of innovation. Creativity is dependent on reducing cognitive mental barriers and allowing an openness of thought.

Mental Models

The mind builds mental models throughout its life. It helps people make sense of their world and how they process information. This becomes that individuals’ paradigm and everyone’s model is different from one another. While these models give context to world it also builds in mental biases and eventually becomes self-limiting.

These mental models reach a point where they limit opportunities. Being open to experience is setting aside mental models. This removes barriers that inhibit the mind from creating something new that is outside the bounds of their current paradigm. Essentially, openness allows the brain to process and construct new information.

Openness to Experience

Teams add new wrinkles to the creative process. For a team to be effective in creating new solutions, each member has to be open to the experience. Where all members listen to one another and are open to the feasibility of unconventional ideas. Normally teams are a deterrent to idea generation from social judgment, it can also be a multiplier for effectiveness if the team focuses on trying to connect ideas.

Eliminating the Negative

Being open eliminates the negative. The repeating record of “we’ve tried that before” goes away. A growth mindset is one that is open to new perspectives. By seeing old problems in a new light a mind can start afresh.

This openness tacitly allows the team to dream. The team then understands that their peers will listen to their insights and be open to the arguments that they make. The flywheel begins and the number of ideas will be increased resulting in better ideas. Being open to experience goes beyond the individual level and enables greatness in others.


Openness is the key to uniqueness. It moves an organization from incremental innovation to market disruption. Openness unlocks the wild, the off the wall, and the moonshots. It is an essential ingredient to maximizing and fully utilizing the knowledge worker in the organization.

There is a distinct difference between open and closed-minded people. They are not permanent states of mind and can shift over time. Yet, a closed mind focuses on being the best, while an open minded person aims to continuously get better. A fixed mindset looks to prove themselves to others while a growth mindset wants to improve themselves for their own sake.

Practical Applications

  • Openness to experience starts with empathy and putting oneself in another’s shoes. Empathy training is an effective process to bring a team to a common baseline before creating together.
  • When kicking off a brainstorming session start with an off the wall activity. This helps refocus the brain on the possibilities of truly unique. “What if gravity didn’t exist?”
  • Have your ideation sessions facilitated to encourage openness in participants and to help eliminate negative trigger words.

The Open Questions For Meaning In The Heavens

The 50th anniversary of the Moon landings rejuvenates the wild aspirations that had followed the original landings. Originally believed to be that giant leap for mankind but in reality, enthusiasm fizzled. Reaching the Moon was believed to be the starting point of space exploration, however, it made the world aware of the harsh realities of Space.

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space X organizations have vowed to return to the Moon. Yet, realities of how big and vast have come back into sour dreams of exploration. The conditions are not only harsh but just to travel to the nearest Sun would take over 19,000 years of space travel.  As mankind has looked across the oceans before being able to cross them, we continue to search across the skies.

Keppler Telescope

Using the Keppler Space Telescope, scientists have discovered thousands of planets including those in the goldilocks zone. This zone indicates planets that are the right distance from their sun to potentially maintain life. Unfortunately, mankind is stuck with imagination for now while waiting for the next evolution of man who can survive aging and extended space travel.

The Universe as a Means to Open Thought

Space, however, is more than the physical act of exploration. Astronomy is mankind’s muse. To stare and gaze upon the vast beauty gives the mind permission to explore infinite possibilities. It takes away preconceived notions and forces a person to be open to the experience. Space provides a wealth of thought experiments to help open minds and help understand the present state of where we live. It’s not a coincidence that most great philosophers were also astronomers.


Beard, A. (2018). Drunk People Are Better At Creative Problem Solving. Harvard Business Review.

Kirsch, A. (2019). Our Quest for Meaning in the Heavens. The Wall Street Journal.

Prochazkova L, L. D. (2018). Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 3401-3413.

Watson, M. (2018). Common Strategies and Practices Among Facilitators of Innovative Thinking in Organizations. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

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