Time, fear of looking dumb, expectations, complacency, process and the current state of technology are all barriers to curiosity. Thankfully there are more ways to cultivate a culture of curiosity than there are obstructions to prevent it.
Below are seven ways to cultivate a culture of curiosity:
- Listen Without Judgement
We all “hear,” but how often do we really listen? Set aside your own agenda and be vulnerable. People will be vulnerable with you. It helps to seek to understand the perspectives of others. Be willing to sit in ambiguity. Coming from a “creative” profession, I long ago learned there was a time and place for ambiguity.
- Ask a Lot of Questions
In order to listen, we need to ask the right questions. Start with: How, what, when, where and why? Avoid yes or no questions. More importantly, we need to be OK with going where the conversation leads. This means detours and tangents are OK! They lead to new and undiscovered places.
- Be Fully Present
We all have tools and technology to keep us in touch at all times. It makes us feel efficient and efficient can be good. But our multitasking skills are no longer something we should be proud of. More and more scientists believe multitasking is the opposite. Our brains are just expending excess energy switching between tasks. This leads to mistakes, less detailed thought and missed communication. Put down whatever else you’re doing. Pause the multitasking and turn to face-to-face communication.
- Be Willing to Be Wrong
This can be hard, especially when you’re in a leadership position because people look to their leaders for answers. Stop spending your time trying to be right. You’re never going to be innovative unless you shelve your sense of ego and replace it with openness and a willingness to be wrong. It will allow for better iterations and model risk taking for others, too.
- Make Time for Curiosity
Spend more time than you’re comfortable with early on when generating ideas. Don’t do yourself a disservice by latching onto something right away. It takes time to really understand all the nuances and characteristics of whatever problem you’re trying to solve. We all know it can’t be “when you have time.” You have to carve out time.
- You Can Say “I Don’t Know”
Just like being willing to be wrong, be open to asking for help. Curious people are always learning. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying you have more to learn. Place a higher value on learning than looking smart. You don’t need to be an expert. You need to be open.
- Don’t Let the Past Affect the Future
Our brain is constantly gathering and sorting information, but only has so much energy. It’s made up of two parts: New experiences and interpreting the experiencing. The older we get, the more experience we’ve sorted into its proper place. Meaning, we have less “new” experiences. As adults, we focus on trying to understand what we experience. But too often that solid base is seen as a safeguard against making mistakes. Use this base to allow you to take risks.
When your team embraces curiosity, questions become more valued, trial and error are embraced, new answers are discovered for old problems and big ideas are found adjacent to existing ones.
What’s possible is just a step away from what already exists.
All you need is to be a little curious.