You've heard the expression, "curiosity killed the cat," right? Interestingly, the second half of that adage is "and satisfaction brought it back;" however, if the internet search I did is correct, the original adage was "care killed the cat," and by 'care' the coiner of the expression meant 'worry/sorrow' rather than our more usual contemporary 'look after/provide for' meaning. Regardless, as far as I'm concerned, it's the lack of curiosity that kills creativity and innovation in the workplace, and I'm not alone in my belief.
None other than the inimitable Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning... Never lose a holy curiosity." He also said, "Questions are more important than knowledge." (I've always been curious about who followed Einstein around to capture all of his pithy quotes, but that's a topic for another day.)
Donald Latumahina, lecturer and self-professed life-long- learner, wrote a recent article about how important curiosity is and how to develop it. All the "greats" were often described as incredibly curious people - Einstein, Edison, da Vinci, Jefferson and Jobs, to name a few. Latumahina explores curiosity from a brain health and development perspective, and offers four reasons for why curiosity is so important. See his blog post here:
So with a tip-o-the hat acknowledgement to Don, here's how we believe we can take his insights and apply them to bringing the power of curiosity into WorkClimate...with intention.
Encouraging Curiosity boosts the active mind.
A healthy WorkClimate encourages people to feed their natural curiosity with lots of questions. Think of young children and all their "why" queries. Why do we lose that youthful curiosity? Rules. School. Order. Discipline. But with a safe and inquisitive workclimate we can rediscover and embrace this critical sense of curiosity and wonder. (Now, don't say you're not creative. All children are creative and we were all kids once.) Actively exploring our places of work through questions is like calisthenics for the brain. This very process of asking, discovering and revealing makes the climate of work stronger, more adaptive, and ultimately our minds more resourceful.
The Curious WorkClimate is observant of new ideas.
Encourage curiosity and people will find new patterns in what they've seen every day! People working in a creative, curious Climate view the same reports, read the same memos, and attend the same meetings as everyone else, but they see them differently. Curiosity-engaged people make new connections and new applications to common problems and open doors to new opportunities at hand.
The Curious WorkClimate opens up new worlds and possibilities. Curiosity drives us to dive beneath the surface of the routines of our everyday work world. An energized WorkClimate fosters continuous learning by allowing time to play with ideas. People often and easily begin their conversations with, "What if ..." -- a regular sentence stem for the curious.
Curiosity brings excitement to worklife.
People in a curiosity-aroused WorkClimate are never bored. Whether people are asking insightful questions of colleagues they engage in the elevator or reading an industry journal from an unfamiliar field, they have an unquenchable thirst for learning. When curiosity is a norm-of-workclimate, and not the exception, opportunities to expand perspectives, empathy and wisdom greet people at every encounter.
So what can you do to resuscitate your own curiosity at work, even if you feel it barely has a pulse? First, decide to remain open-minded in the face of a world that often demands people 'take a side'.
- Condition yourself to ask, "What if" questions, or intentionally adopt other points of view by asking: What would our competition do? What would another department/group do? What would happen if we're wrong?
- Read a classic novel if non-fiction journals are your first choice. Pick up a New York Times best selling fiction book if you're a junkie for Time magazine.
- Find time to hang out with curious, creative people. Notice the unique spin they put on the world and let some of their habits rub off on you.
- Build some humor and play back into your work life. It belongs there.
- To really push the curiosity habit, hang out with some children long enough to see the world from their point of view. Go further and lie down on the grass and look at the stars or name the images you see in cloud formations. Take that evening art class. Write a blog or a short story.
The point is, get out of your everyday work routine, break habitual cycles and actively seek out new learnings.
Our planet is an amazing place and there is much to discover. By approaching our worklife with a sense of curiosity and wonder we'll be better problem solvers, and as co-workers, we'll find new ways to collaborate and engage. And if you're a leader, you'll create a climate of work where people achieve at their best and where innovation flourishes.
Embracing curiosity seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? So, commit right now to a goal for yourself that puts curiosity front and center. You'll realize the promise that a New Year, 2012, has to offer.