….. 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