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Does Curiosity Really Kill The Cat?

‘Curiosity is the engine of achievement’ – Ken Robinson This age old adage seems to suggest that curiosity is a dangerous thing – that it leads us down a path of danger, that it is fraught with hurdles and is an unnecessary use of time. Have you ever noticed though that the truly great leaders are […]

Carol Yang

‘Curiosity is the engine of achievement’ – Ken Robinson

This age old adage seems to suggest that curiosity is a dangerous thing – that it leads us down a path of danger, that it is fraught with hurdles and is an unnecessary use of time.

Have you ever noticed though that the truly great leaders are curious leaders?

They seem to be in possession of an extraordinary curiosity for exploring ‘the new’; for learning and discovery; for the possibility of what could be and not merely what is. They are motivated by the desire to improve and better their own lives, careers and the organisations that they lead. They are not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

Being curious does not mean being distracted. In our hyper-connected world it is a challenge not to become overwhelmed and distracted with the world of information that is available at your fingertips. The ability to effectively channel your curiosity to the things that matter is what defines a ‘healthy curiosity’ and sets the truly successful people apart.

So why is curiosity important?

Curiosity showcases your personal brilliance: Asking why or how helps us clarify situations and issues. It encourages us to adopt a proactive solution oriented style of thinking rather than a reactive problematic view of the world. Who doesn’t want to surround themselves with people who adopt this positive view of their situation and environment?

Curiosity underpins the cycle of learning: Your own curiosity helps you become better at what you do. It encourages critical thinking, mastery of skill, development of new skills and confidence. The cycle of learning is underpinned and ultimately perpetuated by curiosity as this table so aptly demonstrates.

Curiosity acts as a great source of influence, inspiration and motivation: Not only is this true for our own individual careers, but as leaders your ability to spark an interest and make your team more curious will increase everybody’s chances of success. As individuals and teams learn, grow and actively seek out the best way forward, the operating environment becomes more engaging and attractive to those around you.

Curiosity leads to agility, innovation and creativity: The ability to think creatively, take on new knowledge and readily adapt requires a high degree of mental fitness. Just as physical exercise is required to keep our body in shape, curiosity is required to keep our mind in shape.Individuals and organisations that are stronger, more agile, have the ability to laterally and who more connected to their markets achieve far higher results and levels of satisfaction than their counterparts. It provides the additional competitive advantage that sets them apart in the market place.

Curiosity helps us maintain relevance and purpose in what we do: To maintain relevance and purpose in this rapidly changing world we need to adopt a curious mindset. Without it we lose our place and our perspective – be it in the workplace or our community. Curiosity opens us up to a world of possibilities and brings new levels of excitement and engagement to what we do.

How do we build curiosity and embrace in our own lives?  

Commit to an open mind: Not only do we need to commit to learning and embracing the new, but also to unlearning and relearning. Our ability to change our view on the way that things have always been done and embrace new ways can be a continual challenge, however a curious mindset will actively support the embracing not only of new ideas but also new ways to approach things.

Ask questions – lots of them: Your outcomes and direction are greatly determined by the quality of the questions you ask yourself and those around you. Seeking understanding and not merely responses will help create and open up new opportunities, solutions and pathways.

Don’t accept the status quo: Challenge the norm – ask why? How many times have we heard the response ‘because that ‘s the way we’ve always done it’ or ‘that’s just the way we do things around here’ only to discover that the blind acceptance of the status quo is what is holding us back from achieving great things. Creating a safe environment that encourages exploration of the ‘why’ is a key part of developing critical thinking and action oriented outcomes.

Adopt a healthy regard for learning: Successful individuals and great leaders are never satisfied with what they know. They advocate the need for life long learning and recognise that learning does not stop with the acquisition of a certain role or title. Seeing learning as fun and a source of motivation and knowledge will make you naturally want to dig deeper.

Collaborate: None of us have all the answers. Seeking out new relationships and engaging with those around you will ensure that the ‘ideas bank’ remains a rich resource to tap into. Not only does it make what we do more rewarding, but it also provides you with fresh thinking and different perspectives

We all need to encourage and celebrate curiosity. We need it for both our own careers and the businesses that we lead. We need to see our organisations filled with people who know how to ask questions and who are experienced in finding answers and creating solutions; people who aren’t’ afraid to fall or fail for they know that they have the ability and confidence to stand and continue seeking out the best possible path forward. People who don’t want to settle for ‘what is’ but want to explore the ‘what if’ moments both for themselves and the organisations they work for.

I would love to hear your thoughts on ways you build curiosity into your own career and the businesses that you lead.

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