“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
These are tough times. Noise and uncertainty abound and it can be difficult to stay positive let alone curious through such challenging conditions. However, it’s vitally important we keep aware of what’s happening around us, both in our personal and working environments. Curiosity helps us stay in tune with reality; it enables us to embrace the unfamiliar and develop more insight into the adjustments and decisions we must make during a crisis or any demanding situation. Studies and experience show that curiosity generates enormous benefits, including:
- Better Decision Making – When it comes to resolving an issue or generating opportunities, curiosity generates more alternatives; some good and perhaps some not so good, but definitely more. The more ideas and alternatives available to chart a course of action mean fewer decision making errors – a better chance of getting it right.
- More Innovation and Creativity – Curiosity can reduce the stress of a situation, sometimes even neutralizing it, since it generates outward rather than inward thinking. With reduced stress and anxiety we can view difficult situations more creatively, sprouting more innovative ideas and possibilities.
- Reduced Conflict – When working with people curiosity increases empathy for others, thereby enhancing personal connections. It’s difficult to be angry with or untrusting of another person when you understand exactly where they are coming from.
- Better Communications – People who share a curiosity mindset like to listen and learn from each other. This creates greater clarity and comprehension which, in many ways, is what communication is all about.
These are certainly significant benefits that can help us in times of crisis. So how do we stay curious? Here are five tips anyone can use immediately:
- Ask Lots Questions – We all know there’s no such thing as a dumb question (even if you don’t completely agree with the premise, run with it!), so ask lots of questions. If you’re not sure of a question to ask, simply start with the greatest question ever asked – “why?” Keep repeating that question with the answers you receive and you will most likely become even more curious.
- Re-frame the Condition (or Rethink the Question) – “Things are seldom what they seem”, or so wrote Gilbert and Sullivan. Attempt to define a condition differently (i.e. more specifically or perhaps more simply) from its initial statement, and you will often discover a different issue, or multiple issues, or a different approach to resolution. You might also find out you were working on the wrong issue.
- Challenge your Assumptions – Don’t make assumptions based on limited or anecdotal information (i.e. what one person said or what one data point reveals); there’s more information out there, so find it. Also, when reviewing facts keep in mind this simple quote from an anonymous educator “The heart of the matter is often human-centered, not content-centered” – again, things are seldom what they seem.
- Read – Never has there been a time when so much information has been so easily accessible. To keep your curiosity piqued, read as much as you can. A little triage may be in order of course, to separate fact from fiction (although good fiction can be enlightening), but keep absorbing knowledge. And don’t just read topics and opinions that you always agree with; try reading the “other side” to gain more insight and understanding even if you disagree.
- Look for Nuggets – We don’t know it all. There’s always something we can learn and find out, even in the most boring presentation, article or meeting. Endeavor to find it, ask the question “why” when you discover it, and your curiosity will rise.
So, stay curious, increase your CQ (curiosity quotient) and make those adjustments and decisions that move you closer to achieving your goals an dreams. By staying curious you will be better off today and tomorrow then you were yesterday.