(Script) Hi. I’m Kim Tasso. And I guess you are watching this video because you are curious about curiosity? I’m going to explore what is curiosity and why is it so important in business relationships. As well as for learning, your future employability and even your leadership. Then I’ll take a brief look at six tools to help you fuel your curiosity.
What is curiosity?
Maybe curiosity makes you think about Alice through the Looking Glass (in Wonderland) – when she exclaimed “Curiouser and Curiouser”. Or maybe you think about that saying “Curiosity killed the cat”. I guess that was a warning to mind your own business. But newsflash – (hold up book about “Curious Cat Adventures”).
Curiosity is simply the desire to know or learn something. It’s interest, a spirit of inquiry and inquisitiveness. Some people regard curiosity as the knowledge emotion.
There is a difference between curiosity as the innate exploratory behaviour that is present in all animals (for example, to discover new food sources) and curiosity as the desire for knowledge that is specifically attributed to humans. Curiosity is the desire to learn or know about anything.
Studies suggest that there are different types of curiosity – for example:
- Diversive curiosity – need to seek stimulation to escape boredom
- Knowledge curiosity – impulse to learn more
- Specific curiosity – desire for a particular piece of knowledge
- Perceptual curiosity – seeking real-world, physical impressions
Why is curiosity important?
There are many reasons why curiosity is important:
Curiosity supports learning and unlearning
Young children have to learn a great deal as they grow up – language, social rules and how to understand and interact with their environment. Little kids are really curious. They endlessly ask “Why?” Sometimes to the exasperation of their parents who have never really thought about the answers to questions such as “Why is the sky blue?”, “Why do dogs bark instead of talk?” and “Why can’t we eat chocolate all the time?” – Actually, that’s one of my questions !
Curiosity guards against wrong assumptions
You will have a number of core values and beliefs – Your own mental model of how the world works. These are based on assumptions you make about yourself and the world about you. Confirmation bias means that typically we seek out and perceive information that supports our existing beliefs.
So you need to challenge your assumptions. Explore why you think and believe the things you do. Examine the reasons and evidence for those beliefs. Talk to people who have very different views to yourself to see why they believe their views. Seek out conflicting perspectives to learn more about something. Being curious shows that you are open to new information and new ideas.
Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning used “to examine ideas and be able to determine the validity of those ideas”. So questions are important in the pursuit of logic and form a key part of the judicial process (a lawyer will cross-examine witnesses to reveal discrepancies and the truth). Aristotle said “Be a free thinker and don’t accept everything you hear as truth. Be critical and evaluate what you believe in”. Read more about critical thinking and problem solving.
Curiosity is important for creativity
Many great artists have created great works because they were curious about what happened when they looked at things a certain way or used materials that hadn’t been used before or tried to do things that no one had experimented with previously.
There are other articles about creativity:
Curiosity will protect your future employability
Greg Orme wrote a fantastic book called “The Human Edge”. He argued that there are four distinctly human attributes that will protect us from the onward march of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Alongside consciousness, creativity and collaboration is curiosity.
A 2015 HBR article reported on a PWC survey of 1,300 CEOS across 77 countries – curiosity and open-mindedness are leadership traits that are becoming increasingly critical in challenging times. In February 2020 LinkedIn research into the views of 140 top CEOs identified nine critical mind sets – and openness and curiosity were among them.
It’s also interesting that many of the leaders of the world’s most successful businesses – Google, Amazon and Microsoft – highlighted the importance of “learnability”. That’s curiosity and the thirst for knowledge. The ability to learn and unlearn is a key indicator of career potential.
Curiosity makes you a better leader
They say that managers protect the status quo and leaders drive change. So many leaders will constantly challenge the ways things are by asking “Why?” and “What next?”. Maybe you have read this book by Simon Sinek – “Start with Why”.
Many business people will try to predict what will happen in the future by developing scenarios and asking “What if” questions. They use their curiosity to explore alternative futures. And then consider how they might best respond to different scenarios. Business people will invest in research and development programmes to seek out new needs and innovative ways to meet those needs.
Curiosity is good for business
In May 2018 there was an article in Harvard Business Review called “The importance of being curious”. It said that research shows that it leads to higher performing, more adaptable firms.
Curiosity drives scientific research
Curiosity is what drives research. And uncovers new discoveries and breakthroughs. People in the sciences are curious. They want to know why things happen as they do and what happens when situations or variables change. They constantly ask “What if?” They form a hypothesis and then seek information to prove or disprove that hypothesis.
Albert Einstein said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”
Curiosity is vital for developing relationships
The starting point for relationships is to build empathy – to step into the other person’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. We do this by asking questions.
When we meet new people we use curiosity to find out more about them – to find areas of similarity or shared interests. But by asking people questions we also show interest and respect. We try to balance seeking information about them with sharing information about ourselves.
Please see my book on Better Business Relationships
Curiosity and questions are a fundamental part of the persuasion, coaching and sales processes
Most frameworks for persuasion and selling are based on a structured approach to asking different types of questions and listening carefully to the answers.
Funnelling questions, open and closed questions, direct and indirect questions, combined questions, incisive questions and calibrated questions. I often reframe the selling process as “Be more detective”!
So how can you be more curious? Six ideas
So, some simple tools to improve your curiosity (Curious George book of tools)
1. Be more open
Some psychologists think that people have one of two mind sets. Fixed mind set people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talents instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. Whereas open mind set people are open to growth and learning, believing one can always do better.
From psychology and psychometrics, we know that some people will be more open to new experiences and ideas. The construct they look at is openness. But we can all be more curious by simply asking more questions. (There’s more about NEO personality assessment).
2. Listen without judgement
Often when someone is talking about something we don’t understand we switch off. So work hard at listening carefully to what they are saying so you can attempt to fill in your blind spots.
And even if the ideas seem alien, listen without judgement so you gather the necessary information and evidence so you can investigate further and make up your own – informed – mind. (There’s a short video on active listening).
3. Admit it when you don’t know
There’s no harm in admitting when you don’t know something.
And saying to people – “Can you help me understand that?”, “How can I learn more about that?” or “Can you explain that to me?” – are good way to build a relationship.
4. Accept that you might be wrong
Cognitive dissonance is when we try to hold two pieces of information that are contradictory. It’s uncomfortable. And letting go or deeply-held beliefs is hard. So you need to accept that – on occasions – you might be wrong.
5. Ask more questions
Sometimes questions are governed by ritual. For example, we often ask people “How are you?” and the usual response is “I’m fine thanks”. We answer on auto-pilot. Without thinking. So it is good to ask different questions to encourage people to think and provide more information.
Rudyard Kipling said “I keep six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew: their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who”
Throughout my long career I would often phrase questions as “This may be a dumb question but… ”. In only one instance in 30 years – and it WAS a lawyer who I think was trying to be funny – said “Yes Kim, that IS a dumb question”.
Often it would generate discussions that increased my understanding of a situation. Sometimes it would prompt others to think about why we did something a particular way and explore alternative approaches. Often, people would say “That’s a really good question…” which means that my curiosity has prompted people to examine assumptions, established practice and start new strands of thought and enquiry.
6. Become a perpetual student
Become a lifelong learner. Consider how much time you devote to learning about new things. Read books outside your area of expertise and comfort zone. Make a habit of watching TED videos. Watch documentaries on subjects you are unfamiliar with. Sign up for new courses. Keep learning. The more you learn, you realise that the less you know. And that drives further curiosity.
Thanks for watching and listening.