Why we should be curious about curiosity

Fish with cat tail coming out of mouth

I’ve just realised how difficult it is to spell, maybe that’s just me.

What is Curiosity?

Well, if you look up the definition on google, which is the equivalent of getting the oxford dictionary off the shelf these days, there’s a couple of meanings. I’m going to focus on the first one.

I can’t see many people writing about this subject, which surprises me if only based on this definition.

Why curiosity is important?

I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that improvement only really happens where learning occurs. Without learning then how can anyone know what to improve, how to improve and in which direction to improve?

I believe curiosity underpins learning.

Have you ever been in a meeting or on a training course and thought ‘I already know this’. Of course, you have, everyone has. When you’re in that closed mindset, you’re not curious. You’re probably being judgmental. It’s really common. The first step is to realise you’re in that state.

I recently went on a training course and to be honest I probably knew most of the content, but that didn’t matter. I went in there with a curious mind and I learned loads, not from the content on the slides but from the conversations around these. I was open but only because I had made a conscious decision to be that way. This allowed me to ask questions to build my own understanding and not to demonstrate what I think I already know.

That last sentence is massive in the context of this subject.

If there’s no curiosity then there must be a closed or partially closed mindset, don’t you think?

Did curiosity ever kill any cats?

We’ve all heard this one right. I had a look on google and it goes back to here:

“curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” A variation of the longer phrase was first printed in The Galveston Daily News (August 10, 1905), Curiosity killed a cat; but it came back.” The whole phrase was used in The Titusville Herald (December 23, 1912.)

Why did I bring this into this conversation?

When I think of the word, this springs to mind. This may just be my age and its disappeared now (Curious George might have helped) but I think there’s something in this. This one statement puts curiosity in a pretty bad light. If you’re a curious cat, you’ve had it. I’ve worked in a lot of businesses over the years and I can say that this statement is probably not far off if you substitute Cat for manager/employee and take away the idea that it came back. In some workplaces its not a good idea to be too curious. That might get you noticed for all of the wrong reasons.

How do you get more curiosity?

It all starts with leadership and the environment that’s created. The conditions have to be there to allow for this behaviour in the first place.

So, to get more of it you need to know what you’re getting right now. You need to observe curiosity. But how the hell can you do that, I can’t see it in the daily reporting.

Think about ‘how you are’ in your weekly meetings. You rock up with your data with the main aim of demonstrating that you know your shit. Others point questions which show they also know their shit. Where’s the genuine curiosity in that? How could you measure curiosity in this meeting?

It’s no surprise that this starts with YOU becoming curious about how to understand curiosity in your organisation and that starts with an acceptance that your current view can be changed and you welcome it. Ultimately you need to start with yourself. Are you curious?

I really do believe that:

  • Curiosity is really important – it’s the trigger for learning
  • Leaders can create the environment for curiosity
  • Real improvement has to have curiosity at its base
  • It starts with YOU, are you open or closed

If you were to give yourself a curiosity rating what would that be?

I firmly believe all great leaders have this trait.

Let’s create more curiosity in our Leaders


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