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  • Giles Sibbald

curiosity killed the cat...

why curiosity is important for ourselves and businesses

Children are curious. It doesn't matter what they are curious about, it matters just that they are curious.

AI and machines are not yet capable of this human characteristic.

Our future - social, work, everything - will require us to live alongside AI and machines. 

How do we do that? By harnessing our natural curiosity.

The reality of today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world is that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and what the effect on ourselves and the companies we work for will be.

We can safely say that this environment doesn’t look likely to change.

Curiosity helps us and businesses react to these conditions by making us think deeply and inquisitively about what is going on around us and search for solutions which, invariably, require us to think creatively and unconventionally.

In this post, I want to look at how curiosity fits – or doesn’t fit – with corporate culture.

Being curious matters. So, let's get curious...

The problem for companies

So here’s the problem for companies: unconventional is not something that comes intuitively to a lot of companies.

And, let’s face it, there are a LOT of companies who claim to be innovative but what companies say they do and what they actually do are often quite different.

Companies don’t let go of the command and control ethos overnight, if at all. I’ve seen this many times as I’m sure you have.

Costs are constantly under scrutiny and employees get asked to do more with less.

Focus on productivity. Getting “stuff” done. That equals more revenue, right?

But for most employees, that “more” is usually about execution – whether that be sales growth, administration, marketing or (obviously) operations.

So, a lot of the time companies STIFLE innovation.

And with that, they can end up stifling curiosity.

So, what makes for good curiosity?

Know yourself better

Don’t assume

Ask different questions

Value what people feel as well as what they say

Listen to the answers to your questions

Build a team of humans who trust each other to fail, learn and build again

The “Curiosity On” switch

Ok, so assume you are in a friendly corporate environment. Even here, you can’t just flick the “Curiosity On” switch.

There can be inhibitors to exploring your curiosity.

You might feel vulnerable in exploring your curiosity:

- they’ll think I’m stupid for not knowing that;

- they’ll think I’m a dumbass for even THINKING this, let alone suggesting it;

- what I’m thinking completely contradicts my boss.

It’s not enough just to have a curious CEO, although it helps.

Do you have allies?

Companions who think similar to you?

Leaders that will allow you the space to say your piece safely?

Is your company’s culture right?

Ultimately, the culture of your company needs to not just embrace curiosity, but understand and empathise with the human emotions that go with curiosity:

- Is it safe to fail?

- Am I allowed the non-judgemental space to say my piece?

- Is it safe to show my vulnerability?

- Will management put themselves at risk to allow me to be curious?

- How will I be perceived by people who just want to get on and do their job?

Many articles make some practical suggestions for how we can start to release the grip that fear of failure has over us. All of these are rooted in psychology. All good stuff. However, we need to acknowledge the impact that institutional bias has on the ability of some individuals to release their curiosity.

A strong network of allies can alleviate fear.

What else can be done….?

What's the buzz?

- Build a network of allies

- Find leaders who think the same as you

- Calculate the risks

- Be bold


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