“Curioser and Curioser” cried Alice in Wonderland …..

….. it could be argued that Alice’s curiosity led her into trouble just as the proverbial cat can attest.  I prefer to believe that curiosity used as a leadership skill can open up possibilities, provide a foundation for innovation and contribute to strong relationships and rapport with employees and customers.

Curioser was a word coined by Lewis Carroll in his book Alice in Wonderful in 1865.  The Oxford English Dictionary cites the phrase as meaning ‘increasingly strange’.  Certainly curiosity draws us towards the unknown through a strong desire to know or learn something – an urge felt to know more.

Can you remember the role our curiosity played in our childhood experiences and learning?  Yes, sometimes it got us into trouble – falling off walls as we tried to see over to discover what mysteries lay behind?  Curiosity brought us great learning opportunities, discovering the world and repercussions of our actions.  I wonder what will happen if I add this chemical to that chemical – what reaction will it give?  What if I add more?  And more?  Ahh – too much!  Won’t do that again – will do it differently next time!  The learning our curiosity brought was unbounded and kept rewarding us with increased knowledge, emotional experiences and close bonds with friends.

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electrics (GE) during 1981-2001, was a strong proponent of curiosity and the learning this brings an organisation.  He said:

“An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Using that approach and embedding it into the organisation’s culture contributed significantly to GE’s value growing by 4,000% during Jack’s tenure as CEO.

I’m curious as to how we can replicate that in our own organisations.  Curiosity and applying learning are key components of embedding innovation and so to build the skill of curiosity is to encourage and have acceptance for tough open questions, challenging assumptions and complacency.  When faced with situations or ideas with which we don’t agree, it’s easy to ask questions that are common to us and which are really just statements to prove our own point of view, our own reality.

Instead, we could suspend our judgment and be curious about other people’s positions to understand their reality, be open to their perspective and test our own assumptions.  We could be surprised by what we learn about other people, the situation, unbounded possibilities and ourselves.

Curiosity is a great attitude to have to build relationships and rapport when used authentically.  It quickly drives full engagement and explored far-reaching experiences.  Leaders who are genuinely curious about their employees and their customers and demonstrate that they are committed to understanding other people, build enriched relationships and a robust commercial and energetic workplace culture.

I’m happy to get curioser and curioser …… and if you are too, then please get in touch.

Author: Sandra Whitehead

It’s amazing what you can achieve in the dark…

Slate mineBeing in darkness enabled me to quieten my thoughts and as a result I was more relaxed and was able to achieve more than I ever imagined I would.

I recently went on a trip to North Wales with my family and visited an old disused slate mine. It was a fascinating experience I found myself on, in more ways than one. I read a brief description about it in a brochure and although the description was quite vague, I decided that it sounded like a good idea and when I phoned up to book, they told me the only trip (which was 5 hours long!) I could get on was that day in 2 hours’ time.

Without time to think, I told my family we were going to visit a mine (that’s all I said) and when we arrived we were given a safety briefing and given all the climbing gear and ropes ready for our trip.  We had a 45-minute walk up into the hills in a remote village and squeezed through a tiny opening to get into the mine, which was 7 stories deep, it had been disused since the Second World War and some of the shafts had flooded, so we had to bypass these.  The mine was pitch black except for our head torches and had running water to ankle level. The trip involved lots of walking in tunnels, going on a boat, going on a zip wire over some water between 2 shafts, climbing a width of rock face and abseiling down about 60 feet into the bottom of a mine shaft and climbing up 200 steps on a step ladder with running water coming down it.

in the darkAt one point, we found ourselves in a mine shaft, climbing along a ledge of rock about 60 feet across and 60
feet up!! I had decided early on that I would make sure I was the first to go, as I may have changed my mind if I had seen others do it before me. All I remember is being able to just about see my foot and the next bit of rock in front of me, I remember thinking this is scary! But to be honest I couldn’t really see very much and didn’t have much of a reference point to be scared by!

The whole experience took me outside of my comfort zone and looking back required a lot of stamina and courage, but because I did it in the dark of the cave and the guides took us through, one step at a time, I was able to do it, without realising the extent of what I had done.

How can we recreate “the darkness” when we need to?

It got me thinking – How much do we let our thoughts hold us back? How often do we spend too much time over thinking something and in doing so convince ourselves it’s a bad idea? Or think so much about something and in doing this, convince ourselves that it’s hard or difficult and in doing so, make our lives more difficult and stressed.  If this is the case, what can we do to overcome this and not to put such barriers in our own way?  How can we recreate “the darkness” when we need to?

I know that the darkness in that cave enabled me to achieve more than if it had been light!  Seeing how high up I was would have scared me to death and my thoughts would have convinced me that it was too scary and dangerous to do.

Sometimes the enormity of a task can seem daunting and impossible and can worry us, but if we can break it down into small chunks and only look at what is immediately in front of us, then the task becomes achievable and easier and more enjoyable. Then when you get to the end, its simply just the final step! We are also more likely to enjoy the journey along the way, which is the most important point, otherwise, if we aren’t going to enjoy it, why bother!?

Author: Lucy Czakan