Values to lead by – Curiosity
As leaders, our job is to paint a picture of the future and to take people there. We have perhaps grown up with the notion that leaders know where to take people and get it right. There is a lot of truth in this, but Seth Godin, in his marvellous book, ‘Practice – the art of shipping creative work’, says that ‘the search for a guarantee is endless, fruitless and the end of possibility, not the beginning’. If we as leaders think that we must get it right or we have failed, we fall into a rather binary world littered with failure.
In this series I offer 5 values to live and lead by. This week it is the turn of the value of ‘curiosity’. Curiosity, of course, was meant to have killed the cat! A rather dismissive phrase used to stop people prying into things that might disrupt or cause difficulty. Curiosity has received a bad press in the past, particularly if someone wants to stop you asking unwanted questions. But curiosity is about exploring, discovering, experimenting. All of which can help you improve.
So, if we want to paint a picture about the future, we need to be curious. Curiosity asks what the future could look like and leaves norms or parameter untouched.
There are many reasons for the value of curiosity, but here are five that bring great benefit to us as leaders.
Possibilities - Innovation
The human brain likes to make sense of things and therefore often likes to come up with an answer, a reason, a solution. Curiosity opens the world of possibilities. It can be uncomfortable at first, but curiosity allows you to ask, what could this look like? Great inventors have the value of curiosity, they say, ‘what could this look like?’ Dyson said what could a hoover look like without a bag? Karl Benz said, ‘what could a carriage look like without a horse?’ Curiosity leads to innovation. When as leaders we are curious, we can push boundaries and improve performance.
When we are planning something, human beings have ‘confirmation bias’. We think we are all very logical but we do in fact look for solutions that confirm our original thinking. Being curious allows us to work with others to explore other options and therefore check our original thinking and avoid mistakes. Asking ourselves, ‘what if I am wrong?’ Being curious about the possible outcomes, considering how they could be avoided. This curiosity can protect us from the costly mistakes.
Fuelled by social media, our world is very binary. You agree with me or you don’t. As a result, you are in or out. But what if we were curious about the other view. What if we explored? What if education listened to business? What if business' listened to the charitable sector? What if we were curious about the other view to see what could be learned? I often use the phrase, ‘every day is a school day’, because by listening, by being curious we can learn new things.
When we ask, what is it like for the other person? We gain a perspective that can be helpful. We can then deliver our outcome more effectively. I am a strong supporter of Stephen Covey’s principle of ‘listen to understand, not just to hold a conversation’. When we really listen and explore with the person and gain a true understanding of their perspective, we can not only build an understanding but a relationship, value, and the ability to then help them understand our perspective.
Curiosity may at first seem to open, too ‘arty’. But it is solution focused. Why do we look at possibilities? To find the best way forward, to find the best solution, to find the best win possible at the time. Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat; in fact, it helps the cat find the safest solution!
Curiosity is a key part of Everyday Leader’s coaching and training. Do contact us if you are curious about coaching and would like to discuss how it could help you - firstname.lastname@example.org