If you have young children in your life you’ll know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a never-ending stream of questions bouncing from one subject matter to the next: If you punch a shark on the nose will it stop trying to eat you? What is homework for? In a race who would win, a cheetah or a car? How do you make babies? If I jumped from the roof would my legs break?
Curiosity doesn’t disappear just because we grow up but it’s easy to let it fade. Under the barrage of questions my responses might be “err, what does the internet say?”, “to drive your parents mad”, “ask your father”, “no really, ask your father” or “don’t even think about it”.
As we grow into adulthood our childlike curiosity can move to the background as we become more fixed in our ideas, wedded on outcomes driven by our own knowledge, because we feel less inclined to engage in exploration or maybe we’re just worn down by the thought of questions!
Curiosity is what keeps us developing: it’s the spark that leads to innovation. Curiosity aids decision making and can help solve real consumer problems or drive personal change. We’re not all made in the image of Steve Jobs, James Dyson or Tony Robbins but game-changing invention isn’t the only thing that curiosity can create. Small, incremental, step-by-step improvements come from a willingness to challenging our thinking. Simply asking why we do things or taking a contrary perspective can throw up a whole range of opportunity.
But it’s easy to see why curiosity takes a back seat: if our reward is driven by the need to follow a process, course or fixed notions doing something different might hurt us. If ideas are knocked down or change isn’t valued those who speak up will stop talking and may take their ideas elsewhere or, worse, they may sit on them. If we’re asked for our feedback but we don’t see it actioned we may think twice about the value or personal cost of doing it again. If we’re too busy to look up or think critically about our environment.
Creating an environment where curiosity is embedded in business culture takes commitment and an acceptance that certainty in ‘how we do things around here’ will be as ever changing as the needs of our clients. It also needs to recognise those environmental factors that impact the attribute and consciously adopt working patterns, role design or reward to ensure that motivation and reward is aligned.
Sometimes we need to see others make the change to big ticket items like culture to harness curiosity as a catalyst for change but what if we started a small curiosity revolution beginning with ourselves? Today. My personal experience is that curiosity doesn’t kill us cats. Ok so it might be mildly embarrassing to get caught with your head wedged in a swing bin but just think he could have spent his whole life wondering what if…