In the fourth audio book in his critical thinking series, Sridhar Ramanathan delves into keeping an open mind when approaching a problem or a person. He includes a chapter on six areas he believes can nurture open-mindedness: overcoming cultural bias, objectivity, humility, inclusivity, observation and reflection.
He starts by putting forth a definition of open-mindedness: “Open-mindedness is about being willing to change your mind … based on new data, rather than one’s attitudes, opinions, beliefs, assumptions interpretations or judgments.”
Throughout the book, Ramanathan pulls examples from business, history and popular culture. For example, in his chapter on overcoming cultural bias, Ramanathan draws on the story of Katherine Johnson — and her experience as a black mathematician working for NASA (later made into the movie Hidden Figures) — to illustrate how a minority woman had to overcome cultural bias and discrimination in the workforce.
Ramanathan goes on to list seven questions you can ask yourself to make sure you are not rejecting a good idea because of your own biases. For example: Are you rejecting an idea because of the person presenting it (because of their appearance, background, manner or delivery)? He also urges you to not reject an idea because “I’ve heard it before,” without listening to the full explanation of the idea.
We have all been in a meeting where someone’s contribution seems less designed to debate an idea, and more designed to boost one’s ego by minimizing the ideas of others. In a chapter on humility, Ramanathan gives seven suggestions for not being “that guy” — listen first, avoid boasting, recognize other’s ideas, own mistakes, be self-confident, be self-aware, and welcome feedback.
In his chapter on inclusivity, Ramanathan lays out statistics on the continuing number of engineers who do not consider the profession as inclusive (particularly women, people of color, disabled, LBGTQ and older engineers); and he includes studies which show inclusivity increases motivation, performance and commitment to an organization. Ramanathan concludes, “a more inclusive workplace environment is good for both engineers and business” and that, in the end, it “leads to better engineering results.”
Ramanathan’s chapters on observation and reflection offer suggestions on how to incorporate these practices to enhance your approach to engineering and to generate and be open to new ideas — from nature, or from within your own experience. He concludes, “Make time to reflect … so you can make new connections to both your past and your future.”
This fourth audio book in the Critical Thinking Skills for Engineers series builds upon the fundamentals of analytical skills, communication skills and creativity covered in earlier books. Critical Thinking Skills for Engineers – Book 4: On Open Mindedness, along with the previous audio books in the series, are available for free to IEEE-USA members at the IEEE-USA Online Shop.
Download this one, and Sridhar Ramanathan’s other audio books, to listen to when you are on a drive, going for a jog, or just relaxing at home on your sofa. Like his other books, it is full of ideas to chew on — ideas designed to help make you “a more critically thinking engineer — one who taps into fresh, new ideas — whether they are generated from self-reflection, or from engaging colleagues in a novel new way.”
The fifth book in Ramanathan’s journey for engineers interested in developing their critical thinking is on problem solving. It is available now, as an e-book, as are all the other books in this series, at: https://ieeeusa.org/shop/.
Sridhar Ramanathan earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of California, Berkley. He has thirty years of experience in technology, including as cofounder and managing director of the Aventi Group — and previously, as a marketing executive for Hewlett-Packard’s Managed Services Business.
Paul Lief Rosengren is the coauthor of In the Time of Covid: One Hospital’s Struggles and Triumphs. He worked for more than three decades in corporate communications and in state government. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard and an undergraduate degree in political science from Dickinson College. You can follow him on twitter @PaulRosengren.