Structural Minds vs. Exploratory Minds

The mantra of agile business practice.

There seem to be two basic types of mindsets in the workplace: structural and exploratory. Recent brain research shows we all have a practical and an emotional mind operating in tandem in our brains at the same time.

The structural mind is reliable and stable. Structure is the scaffolding and bones of a company, ensuring procedures are followed, schedules are met, paperwork is handled, and the bills are paid every quarter.

The exploratory mind, on the other hand, can’t help but say, “What if ?” to stability, seek out new approaches, and try novel solutions.

And the exploratory minds are usually wrong — almost always wrong (if there is such a thing) when making a first attempt at something new. But that’s the greatest part of creativity’s valor: learning from failure.

As big business and big government have outsourced exploration, they have also cut structure to the bone. Structure is great for the status quo, but it does nothing for the inquisitive urge to solve new problems.

Structure is great for the status quo, but it does nothing for the inquisitive urge to solve new problems.

Most of us were trained from early ages to think of high-success rates as most desirable. In school, 90% or better is an A.

We’re encouraged by big numbers and high rates of success, but sometimes safe numbers can lead you off the cliff.

Marketing and innovating for new opportunities is a series of adjustments to many small failures, where even a 5% success rate could be considered an A+, not 90% or better!

A branch will grow toward the light, but it must twist as it grows, finding the path of least constraint. Constraint almost always wins, and the branch can’t grow everywhere at the same time.

Call it trial-and-error. Call it perseverance. Call it agile design. Call it entrepreneurship and wealth creation. Call it DNA replication. It’s all the same: small learning against small failed attempts leading up to the explosion of a new opportunity and leafy greens.

The odds are low, but the upside is huge.

And the world needs constraints. We all need structure. But we also need the occasional bloom, where we can try and not be afraid to make mistakes, as long as the mistakes are new ones.

This is the mantra of agile business practice.

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