Curiosity is the spark that ignites inquiry, the fuel that powers exploration and the engine that drives the questions that engage and connect us with the world
The curious thing about curiosity
Imagine a world without contributions from people like Galileo, Columbus, DaVinci, Shakespeare or Newton? People whose insights and innovations literally changed the world. What was it that distinguished them from their peers? Newton certainly wasn’t the first to observe an apple fall, but he was to ask why and then have the skill, tenacity and courage to find the answer. What enabled him to ask why where so many others hadn’t?
Without curiosity, we would all still be living in the trees. We wouldn’t have learnt how to tame fire, irrigate, cure diseases or create anything useful, beautiful or entertaining. Curiosity is the spark that ignites inquiry, the fuel that powers exploration and the engine that drives the questions that engage and connect us with the world. It’s a catalyst for wonder, discovery and learning. It drives creativity, problem solving, self-awareness and intimacy. A quick look at any child will confirm that a strong sense of curiosity is innate to us all. Wonder-filled, we embrace the world with enthusiasm and optimism, thirsty for knowledge and hungry for understanding. Unfortunately, by the time many of us reach adulthood we appear to have lost much of our inheritance. What happened? Where did our curiosity go and why? How do we facilitate its re-elevation as one of our defining, most useful attributes?
Many leaders overwhelmed with information and complexity have inadvertently suffocated curiosity by discouraging questions or challenges. Fearing the unknown, needing to appear certain or in control they frequently suppress curiosity, creativity and innovation. Even our education system, with its emphasis on finding the right answers, may have had a role to play in curiosity’s demise. In our haste to find the “right” answers, we frequently censure questions, reward quick solutions at the expense of deep understanding and praise decisiveness over thoroughness.
Let’s face it, if you want well behaved, compliant workers (children, congregations or voters) curiosity is downright dangerous.
“Curiosity, therefore, rightly claims first place among the degrees of pride, and is rightly seen as the beginning of all sin.” ~ St Bernard, 1090-1153
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” Einstein
While we weave curiosity into everything we do, it’s our explanations that we’re most proud of. We do the tough work, wading through complexity to find the simplicity on the other side. Our audiences love the way we can make complex ideas straightforward and straightforward ideas profound.
More than descriptions, definitions or examples we craft explanations that make sense to diverse audiences. Consummate storytellers, we use metaphor, analogy and activities to make ideas more concrete. A key part of most of our programs is Explaining Explanations- teaching leaders and communicators how to get your message across in a way that inspires buy-in.
Perhaps, rather than resistant or recalcitrant audiences, the feedback is we aren’t explaining ourselves well enough?
Our philosophical approach to learning and development is based upon 3 pillars
By creating awareness of what is going on around us and what we are experiencing internally, both the quality and quantity of our sensory input is amplified—and we begin to have a greater understanding of what we are feeling and why, as well as how we are responding to those feelings.
One of the attributes of high achievers, no matter their field, is their ability to perceive more, and to use that improved awareness to make finer distinctions, to inform their decision-making. Heightened perception and awareness results in them being able to perform at enhanced or advanced levels. It provides a springboard for performance improvement.
Cultivating curiosity can provide the key to unlocking your people’s potential—your organisation’s intellectual capital.
Another attribute of high achievers is their enduring curiosity. Curiosity drives engagement, exploration and discovery, learning, creativity, problem solving and an entrepreneurial spirit. These are all the qualities employers desire to facilitate innovation, motivation and performance.
Throughout our early years, curiosity is frequently stifled by some of our educational and managerial assumptions. For example, in our desire to reward the “right” answers, we frequently suppress better questions. We favour those who conform over those who question. We promise the illusion of certainty ahead of encouraging the natural desire to explore the unknown.
By genuinely wanting to understand, curious people tend to ask deeper questions and then listen intently to the answers. In so doing, they generate more intimacy, respect and trust. They are able to connect with their role and they become key problem solvers.
Finding the right question to ask solves every problem.
When we study surveys of “Best Employer Organisations”, we find much higher levels of engagement. Engaged employees take pride in their work, initiate action and own the results.
Engagement comes from inside, it’s when people want to “volunteer” their best because it gives them personal satisfaction (and even pride). Rather than being a result of carrot and stick approaches to motivate people, engagement grabs people by their intrinsic drive for meaning, choice, improvement and belonging.
Usually when employees begin in their new roles they come with enthusiasm and are keen to impress. This enthusiasm generates peak performance, which over time begins to plateau or even regress. By energising engagement, we can help your employees maintain their enthusiasm over the long term—keeping them connected and invested in achieving the best they can.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” Albert Einstein
“If you give people tools, [and they use] their natural ability and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.”