Curiosity was once associated with punitive consequences – after all curiosity killed the cat, right? It’s had bad press in the past, but now it’s cool to be curious.
It seems everyone is talking about how important this attribute is for leaders, entrepreneurs, intraprenuers, in fact…everyone. There are some very good reasons to get more curious, that surely make it a quality we all need.
#1 – Opens new networks
What have you learned by chance, by simply talking to people, asking questions and being interested in their work, hobbies or family? By cultivating an interest in people, you will find out more about your customers and their preferences, and make connections with a broader network. CPA CEO, Alex Malley, recently blogged how being curious about people and having the courage to engage in unlikely places, such as on flights or at children’s sporting events, has opened unexpected, new networks for him.
#2 – Your brain will love it
Our brains are hardwired to file and recall new experiences. When you continue to learn, you build new neural pathways, keeping your mind active and agile. Discovery is exciting and the curious brain is rewarded with new information, such as when you have an ‘aha’ moment, where you get that insight, or epiphany. Neuroscientist, David Rock, explains that when we solve a problem through a flash of inspiration, our brains enjoy a burst of dopamine; the feel good chemical associated with the ‘reward centre’ in our brain.
#3 – Helps you deal with ambiguity
Being continuously open to learning and new ideas means we search and find more clues and facts. These become anchors of certainty in an increasingly complex and ambiguous environment, helping us break new ground. Discovery of information that helps solve even small parts of a problem lead to a deeper knowledge over time, making us better at managing complexity and more tolerant of ambiguity. In our search for new ideas, we remain nimble and can more easily change tack when the winds take a different direction.
#4 – Suspends judgement
Curiosity helps us practise the art of Stephen Covey’s fifth of his famous seven habits - Seek first to understand, then to be understood. By investigating facts and searching for further data, we detach ourselves from the need to be right and work towards a state of understanding new possibilities. Nance Guilmartin, in her book ‘The power of pause’, has labelled this discipline the Get Curious Not Furious Process, that allows us to pause and investigate before responding too early with bias or emotion.
#5 – Develops a growth mindset, driving social learning
The more curious you are, the more opportunities you’ll explore proactively to learn socially and organically. Your personal learning network (PLN) will have no end, as represented in my curiosity matrix. A curious mind, hungry for new information, is the key attribute of a growth mindset. A growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed one, is one that thrives on challenges, and welcomes failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Where would we be without our natural curiosity? In our history as humans, it’s been the more inquisitive among us who have challenged the status quo, made breakthroughs, discovered other continents and invented new technologies.
The good news, according to Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who coined the term Curiosity Quotient (CQ) as an indicator of a ‘hungry mind’, is that you can develop and improve your CQ. So, work on it, uncover it, nurture it and watch it grow. You’ll be surprised at what you discover about yourself and the world around you!
Find out more about how curiosity is important for an agile mindset in my white paper Change is the New Normal here.