George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” This applies to many different types of progress.

Suppose a mystery writer gets stuck on a particular scene. She tweaks the scene and tweaks it, but she just can’t make it work. Eventually, she becomes willing to consider a change in her basic plot or characterization. She arrives at this point reluctantly, because she loves her plot and characters. She’s invested a lot of time in them.

But once she opens her mind to change, she realizes the problem with the individual scene was only a symptom. The solution might be to change the backstory of a character. She might decide to make a different character the victim of the crime, or even the perpetrator. She changes her mind about the basic structure of the story, and, voilà! The problem scene falls into place. She makes progress.

Suppose Jack believes Jill is snobby. Then he decides to open his mind, approach Jill warmly and patiently and see what happens. Low and behold, it turns out Jill wasn’t snobby, only bashful.

The practice of taking a step back and opening our minds to a change in the premises on which we were operating lies at the heart of interest-driven consensus building, persuasion and negotiation.

Sam haggles over the price for which he will sell his boat. He can’t close a deal. He steps back and asks himself why he insists on sticking to a preset bottom line. His answer: he needs that amount of money to buy a recreational vehicle he wants.

Now he opens his mind to change and asks whether selling the boat is the only way to get the RV. Perhaps one prospective buyer has an RV she’s willing to trade. Or another prospective buyer is a roofer.  He offers to replace Sam’s roof for the cost of materials in return for part of the cost of the boat. This frees up money Sam had set aside for the roof. So now he can afford to buy the RV without selling the boat for that preset bottom-line.

When has opening your mind to change allowed you to make progress?