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  • Writer's pictureStephen Randall

Digital Healthcare, Bob Hope and the Beginner’s Mind.

Why it's sometimes good to be niave.



The term “Beginner’s Mind” comes from the writings and speeches of Japanese Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. He suggests that open-mindedness can foster the development of new skills, better decision-making tactics, and greater empathy, while an outlook riddled with all-knowingness (like that of an ‘expert’) can be quite limiting in practice. I'd like to take that idea even further by suggesting that naivete can actually be an advantage, especially for startups in challenging markets.

 

 An outlook riddled with all-knowingness (like that of an ‘expert’) can be quite limiting in practice

 

As a kid, I remember watching an old Bob Hope movie, The Paleface, where he plays Painless Potter, a bumbling dentist mistaken for a gunslinger. There's a memorable gunfight scene (at 56 mins - see link below) where he’s about to face a ruthless opponent, and the locals overload him with helpful advice:


The first stranger says, “Here's a tip. He draws from the left, so lean to the right.”


A second says, “Towards sunset, there's a wind from the east, so you better aim to the west.”


And a third advises, “I know this Joe like a book. He crouches when he shoots, so stand on your toes.”


As Bob Hope’s character is about to face the gunslinger, he’s desperately trying to piece together the advice:


“He draws from the left, so stand on your toes. There's a wind from the east, better lean to the right. He crouches when he shoots, better aim to the west. He draws from his toes, so lean towards the wind. Aha! I got it!”


In my opinion, this scene captures the essence of the Beginner’s Mind. The abundance of expert advice can be more confusing than helpful. Sometimes, naivete, or a fresh perspective, can cut through the noise and lead to unexpected success.


In the rapidly evolving frontier town of Digital Health, embracing the Beginner’s Mind can help startups navigate complex challenges. By approaching problems with fresh eyes and a willingness to learn, even the most daunting tasks can become manageable.


Just like Painless Potter’s mix of advice, sometimes the best strategy is to embrace the Beginner’s Mind and lean towards the wind. Aha! I got it!


References and further reading:

The Paleface

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