Curiosity is a mindset that propels deep understanding and learning and is foundational in creating a culture of engagement and innovation.
One of the most impactful lessons around the importance of curiosity was a video I saw in a leadership conference. The speaker asked all of us to count the number of balls that were thrown between the people in white shirts in this video. I was quite pleased with myself for getting the right answer until we watched the video again and I realized what I had missed!
This video was a powerful reminder that we see what we pay attention to and are expecting to see. This means unless we are consciously curious, we may be missing vital information that is, literally, right in front of us.
Being curious is assuming there are things you are not seeing or understanding and seeking others’ perspectives and ideas. Being curious is actively investigating your environment, understanding history, and consulting experts.
Being curious is being open to new possibilities. One of the biggest barriers to curiosity was that I used to think that my main job was to sell my idea or defend what my team was doing. As I have shifted from the mindset of selling to partnering, I have been much more successful because I am really listening and constantly seeking ways to improve. Last year, I was formally coaching a colleague who was leading a second attempt at a project that had failed. She was preparing for her presentation to the CIO and was talking about selling her revamped approach. When I asked her if she liked it when others “sold” her something, I could see she had a profound aha moment as she said she hated it. We then revamped the interaction as a conversation rather than a presentation. She went into the conversation open and curious and it went very well.
Being curious is being able to suspend judgement and more mindfully move up the ladder of inference. I have written about this in previous blogs, but it is remarkable how many times a day we unconsciously judge what is going on around us. Being curious means understanding how our values and previous experiences shape our perceptions of events. When we stop categorizing things as good or bad, we are in a better position to see what is going on around us.
Being curious is being willing to try something new. When I have been able to step back and observe myself, it removes most of the negative emotions when things do not go as I desire. It also puts me in a better position to measure the effectiveness of what I am attempting to do. I have been trying new exercises in our all-staff meetings to identify the best way for generating ideas and fostering communication. The exercises we used in the second meeting were not as well received by the group as the exercises in the first meeting. I knew this because the satisfaction scores went down and I received direct feedback for which I was grateful. I will take that feedback and use it to define something different for our upcoming meeting.
Being curious is learning from mistakes and moving on. Forgiveness is required for growth and learning, not only for others but for ourselves. When we are curious and willing to experiment and try new things, we will fail and make mistakes. We have to learn what we can from our mistakes and move forward.
My challenge for you this week is to experiment on how you could become more curious. Good luck and let me know how it goes.