open closed mindset

What are Closed & Open Mindsets?

This set of mindsets involves individuals’ beliefs around whether or not they believe what they know is best, which directly influences how closed or open they are to the ideas and suggestions of others. 

Pro-tip: If you haven’t read the article “What are Mindsets?”  read that first before reading this article.

What are Closed and Open Mindsets?

To understand what closed and open mindsets are, it is helpful to think of our mind as a bucket.

When someone has a closed mindset, they believe that what they know is best. In other words, they believe their bucket is full. When new ideas or suggestions are poured into it, nothing gets absorbed. It just runs off the side.

When someone has an open mindset, they believe that they can be wrong. In other words, they recognize that their knowledge is not complete and that their bucket isn’t all the way full. With this mindset, when new ideas or suggestions are poured into it, there is room to absorb them.

But, having an open mindset doesn’t mean that we always have to run with the ideas or suggestions of others. We can, and in some instances should, have a stiff back. But our closed- or open-mindedness is predicated upon whether or not we have a hard or soft front.

Before you smugly slap an open-minded sticker on your forehead, consider this quote:

Close-minded people would never consider that they could actually be closed-minded. In fact, their perceived open-mindedness is what’s so dangerous.

In fact, in one TedX talk, researcher Tasha Eurich reported that 85% of people consider themselves to be self-aware, yet they found that only 15% of people were self-aware.

Why are these mindsets so important?

A couple of years ago, researchers at Google found that the most important factor in top-performing teams was psychological safety. This is the degree to which team members feel like they can speak up and take risks without fear of negative repercussion.

Open mindsets fuel psychological safety and closed mindsets stifle psychological safety. To most people, voice equals value. If our voice is heard and validated, we feel respected. If our voice is not heard or not validated, we no longer feel safe presenting ideas within that setting. And when people are unwilling to speak up in a work environment, creativity and innovation stops.

Research summary of the effects of possessing either fixed or growth mindsets

Fortunately, we have 30+ years of academic research on closed and open mindsets that have been able to clearly demonstrate the effect these mindsets have on how we operate. This research has repeatedly and conclusively demonstrated that those that have a growth mindset operate much more effectively than those with a fixed mindset in three primary ways.

First, an open mindset positively influences how we interpret situational cues.

Those with a CLOSED MindsetThose with a OPEN Mindset
Think they are right and want to be viewed as being rightWant to make appropriate decisions and think optimally
Sensitive to cues that indicate their perspective is correctSensitive to cues that indicate opportunities for improved thinking
Primed to explore how, when, and where to do somethingPrimed to explore why one should do something and related pros and cons

Second, an open mindset activates specific processing dynamics to navigate our situations in a manner aligned with our interpretation of situational cues.

Those with a CLOSED MindsetThose with a OPEN Mindset
Less impartial, more biased, and less accurate in processing and decision makingMore impartial, less biased, and more accurate in processing and decision making
Less open to new informationMore open to new information
Less inclined to spot relevant information and engages in more selective filteringMore inclined to spot relevant information and engages in less selective filtering


Overall, 30+ years of research on closed and open mindsets demonstrates that those with an open mindset are much more disposed to navigate their world much more effectively.

Your Personal Mindset Report should have revealed the quality of your mindsets along the fixed-growth continuum relative to over 20,000+ people who have completed the assessment.

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