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The dangers of a closed mind

How many times do you hear phrases like “Oh no we tried that and it didn’t work” “Social media? Definitely not right for us” “I just know without trying that x,y,z wouldn’t work here, we’re far too complicated“….

Sound familiar? I regularly have discussions with clients and people in my network who are looking for advice and guidance to help them break down barriers inside their companies, start conversations and shift mindsets in their workplace.

Through this article I’m going to examine something I think stops companies from being successful in their internal communication – closed minds.

Closed ears
Gaping Void I’ve lost count of the amount of times comms teams have said to me: “We know the right thing for our stakeholders, but they aren’t listening to us. We know it will take a third-party to tell them – can you help us?”

It’s a pleasure to work alongside organisations and help them move towards where they want to be and take people along that journey.

I absolutely love what I do for a living and seeing the tangible results of effective communication in action.

As a communication consultant I’ve spoken to Boards and Senior Managers on behalf of my clients and presented my recommendations to their business problems, coupled with communication solutions to help them work smarter and be on the right path.

You can see the ‘aha’ moments and when those closed minds and ears start to be unlocked. Or when the possibility to let a chink of light in happens.

It doesn’t always turn out peachy.

Sometimes it takes additional one-to-one conversations with leaders, where I take the time to understand the pain points from what has gone before, which has led to their current state of mind.

The consequences of past decisions can be far-reaching and influence the way communication happens today. Examples of this include difficult changes, shifts in perceptions of the comms team, changes in leadership – it’s an endless list.

It’s important to understand what has led to closed minds and preconceived notions in order to forge a way forward. (Tweet this)

When I leave the room those sessions are inevitably followed by conversations with the comms teams I’m working with who say: “Thank you so much – I could see they listened when you said what we’ve been trying to say for months.” 

Why is that?
If there’s one thing that I see more than any other it’s the impact of closed minds, set ideas and preconceived notions.

So what’s the answer?

Being brave.

I challenge you to go with your gut feel and make decisions that you know are right for your organisation – you know how your employees work and what’s important to them. All your measurement and metrics activity should give you that insight, alongside your own networks and face-to-face conversations.

Having worked in-house for a decade myself, I identify with this, I understand that yes it does sometimes take a third-party to say what you’ve been saying for months, even years.

Even if it helps underline your advice, that’s never a bad thing, frustrating as it may seem that it took an external person to offer similar advice.

Every week comms pros get in touch to say thank you because they’ve used an article I wrote to help convince their stakeholders to try something different, to see how other companies communicate and to “back-up” what they have been saying.

Closed minds are often coupled with fear. A sense that’s it’s “safer” to carry on with the way things have always been done, not trying anything new or stepping out of comfort zones.

If this had always been the case, I’d be advising companies on the best way to make the most of their cave paintings…

Communication evolves, people evolve, but the fundamental principles of good communication remain.

Does this resonate with you? How do you unlock preconceived ideas in your company? As ever I welcome your comments – do leave me a note below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

CIPRFurther reading
If you want to know more about changing behaviour, check out the upcoming annual IC conference from CIPR Inside on 2 October.

If you book your ticket before 8 September you’ll save £100 – so do be an early bird and grab that worm! See you there.

To discover what other events are on for comms pros, check out my comms calendar, including the course I’m running on 9 September for the Institute of Internal Communication.

Thanks as ever for stopping by


First published on All Things IC blog 26 August 2014.

Picture credit: @Gapingvoid 

Post author: Rachel Miller.

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