- Do you have to manage more information than ever before?
- Is change hitting you faster than ever before?
Welcome to the two-headed monster of today’s work world.
We’re living in an age of complexity—one that shows no signs of going away or slowing down.
Everyone’s dealing with the challenges of more, faster and bigger. ‘Doing more with less’ is a common refrain.
However, not everyone’s dealing equally well with this complexity. Some leaders are thriving while others are barely surviving
What’s the critical difference? What do the best leaders do that others don’t do?
The best leaders are curious.
Why Develop Curiosity?
Why have some companies failed?
You could argue that they didn’t adjust to changing market forces.
However, underneath that reason, there’s a deeper cause: a shortage of curiosity. Their leaders didn’t have a hunger to perpetually learn. In their minds, they already knew enough—about their customers, their people, their products and their processes.
On the flip side, businesses that thrive (think Amazon, Apple) dig deep into inquiry. They constantly ask questions like:
- How could we do this better?
- What beliefs are holding us back?
- What experiences would delight our customers more?
Their curiosity keeps them on the lookout for new ideas to help them improve, expand, and transform.
As last week’s post explained, practicing curiosity leads to better physical health.
But there are also three big business benefits that come with being curious.
Benefit #1: Build Stronger Relationships
Think about the people you like the most.
Wouldn’t you say that a big reason you like them is because they show an active interest in you?
Curious people have a strong desire to know or learn. This strong desire demonstrates passion. A leader’s passion transforms into a follower’s inspiration. Research shows that one of the top-most admired qualities of leaders is the ability to inspire.
If that wasn’t enough, when you engage others with curiosity, you become a better listener. You demonstrate that you care: about them, and what they have to say.
This behavior puts deposits in their emotional bank account. As a curious leader, you give people your most valuable asset: your attention. As a result, people will enjoy being around you a lot more. They’ll trust you a whole lot more, too.
Benefit #2: Be More Creative and Innovative
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”
Creativity doesn’t spring out of nowhere. It’s the result of making links between seemingly unrelated ideas and integrating them into something new. When you’re curious, you tap into a bigger pool of ideas.
Producing more ideas is the basis of what innovators call ‘divergent thinking’. This is the process of coming up with as many different and new ideas as possible. It’s where ‘brainstorming’ comes from.
In fact, it’s been shown that the best way to get the best quality ideas is to have the greatest quantity of ideas to choose from.
Consider this example:
To select the 30 images that are chosen and published in National Geographic Magazine’s cover story each month, the staff photographer takes an average of 14,000 photos.
What fuels that photographer’s ability to take the 13,970 shots that will never see the light of day? Curiosity.
Benefit #3: Become a Feedback Magnet
When you’re curious, you get known for being open to new ideas. People feel safe to seek you out and give you the dirty truth: the good, the bad and the ugly.
An all-access pass to this kind of feedback is a boon for a leader. Your problem-solving skills multiply, because you have better data on which to base decisions.
If you’re not curious, you’re likely to develop ‘CEO Disease’. This is the sickness that afflicts leaders who surround themselves with people who only tell them what they want to hear.
Being a feedback magnet also improves your influencing skill. After all, when you have a track record of being open to others ideas, they’ll become more open to your ideas as well.
Start Strengthening Your Curiosity Muscles Now
To start reaping the fruits of these benefits, choose one of these actions:
- Ask better questions.
Want better answers? Ask better questions. Make them deeper, wider and richer. Really listen to the response. Hold off on your desire to fill in the blanks or close down the conversation with your own version of the ‘truth’.
- Make time for “school”.
Block out time- at least an hour a week- to learn. Learn about your industry, your business, your customers, your competitors. Added bonus: try teaching what you learn to someone else. You’ll learn more stuff in less time.
- Defy the status quo.
One of the biggest hurdles to curiosity is the comfort zone. Defying the status quo takes courage. It might feel scary in the moment, but what’s the cost of not keeping up with change?
Next time you’re in a meeting, ask provocative questions, like:
- Why do we do things this way?
- If we were outsiders taking over our business, what would we get rid of?
- If no one cared who got the credit, what would we do differently?
The benefits to a curious mind (and business) are immense. As Albert Einstein once said:
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
What other benefits arise when you’re curious? What other techniques do you have for cultivating curiosity? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.