How (and Why) to Cultivate Your Curious Side
Updated: Oct 28
My teammates and I sat at the rectangle conference room table. Our leader shared an idea. Actually… it was more than an idea. It was intended to be an actionable item. Then the questions came. What if “this” happens? Have you thought about “this” option? How will it fit with _____? Are we ready for that? What will it take to do that? Can we do that? Does it make sense to do that now?
Even though it was frustrating at times, we really benefited from her questions. Fortunately for us, it became a subtle (happy) joke that any idea would have to survive all her questions.
Why were her questions so effective?
They weren’t just any questions. They didn’t have a selfish or manipulative spirit behind them. They came from a position of genuine curiosity. A genuine desire to do the most strategic thing. To find the idea that made the most sense. To understand why.
What is curiosity?
Curiosity is a desire to explore new ideas, activities, and experiences. It’s a desire to gain knowledge.
Is curiosity a good thing?
You’ve heard the popular phrase, “Curiosity kills the cat”? Makes you wonder, is curiosity really a good thing? What affect will our curiosity have? Do we really want more curiosity?
If you do some research, you’ll probably find some different opinions, but I think YES, we need to be curious! Sure, we might draw different lines regarding what to be curious about, or how we express our curiosity, or the motivation behind it. But we can agree that curiosity is necessary for good leadership.
Here’s what some leaders I know say about curiosity:
· Curiosity allows others to be involved and valued. Curiosity leads to innovation and reduces stagnation. Mike, Business Owner
· Curiosity will drive your research and growth. It can strengthen your position.
Denise, Payroll Manager
How do you know a curious person when you see him/her?
· ask questions
· read, explore, and dive deeply into ideas and concepts
· want to know and understand
· analyze with the intention to do something differently or be better next time
How can curiosity help us?
Curiosity Motivates Us
When we have a reason to know something, learning is easier, more fun, and more lasting. “When we are more curious about, and interested in what we are doing, it’s easier to get involved, put effort in, and do well.” Emily Campbell
What’s on your to do list that triggers your curiosity?
Curiosity is a Path to Humility
When we choose to be curious, we admit that we don’t know it all, we don’t have all the answers. (For some…okay most of us, that’s hard.) George Loewenstien describes curiosity as, “a cognitive induced deprivation that arises from the perception of a gap in knowledge and understanding.” That sounds too academic, right?
Essentially…when we are curious, we admit there’s a gap. There’s something we don’t know or understand. Good leaders know those gaps exist and look for them, instead of falling into them.
Are you seeing or sensing any gaps?
Better Decision Making
Who doesn’t want to make better decisions? To live with less regrets. To have more “wins” in our column. When our curiosity is activated, we think deeper and come up with more creative solutions.
In a world that is changing faster than ever. A world where we’re experiencing more unknowns, more pressures, and more complexity. Curiosity is our friend!
Strengthen Any Relationship
Think about it, what happens when you become curious about the people around you?
One study shows that curiosity in relationships leads to positive relationship outcomes. Genuine curiosity helps us earn respect and build trust. We do that by asking our coworkers, colleagues, spouses, or children:
· What’s your day been like?
· How’s that project coming along?
· How are you feeling today?
· What’s on your mind?
These are all undergirded by that powerful phrase: “Help me understand.”
Would curiosity help you strengthen a relationship?
We’ve all been there. Miscalculated a timeline. Made a wrong decision. Said something flippantly. And, I probably don’t have to tell you, failures aren’t final; they’re great teaching ground. But how?
That’s where curiosity comes in!
Instead of beating ourselves up about our failure, what if we became more curious about our failure?
· Why did that happen?
· What could I have done differently?
· What can I learn about myself?
· How might I do it differently next time?
· What’s best to do now?
So, does curiosity have to “kill the cat”? I don’t think so.
Especially when we are genuinely curious about things that will
grow our business,
or get results.
I hope you’ve been encouraged to be more curious about something at work, someone at home, or some problem you are facing.
I mentioned my former co-worker as someone who’s curiosity I admire. Who is a curious person you look up to? Put it in the comments.