“I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted…I am only very, very curious” Albert Einstein

How high does curiosity rank in your business or personal values? How do you develop the traits and attributes of curiosity in your people? Without curiosity in our organisational culture, we risk staying in our comfort zones, sticking to the status quo and potentially resisting change. Curiosity has become a key leadership requirement.

Let’s take a clear and simple definition of curiosity – “The thirst for knowing and the desire to explore and learn more about something or someone”. To what extent do the leaders in your organisation display this thirst and desire? What enthusiastic efforts do they make to get to know the people outside of their direct reports? How earnestly do they remain present and listen actively when someone recounts a story or shares an idea?

What if we, as leaders, were to approach every challenge and problem with a deep inquisitive spirit and a genuine desire to know more? Innovation is a core success indicator in today’s complex business environment yet how much time and energy do we invest in fostering innovation, encouraging the use of intuition, playing with imagination and making room for curiosity?

Curiosity and Invention

Without the space for inquisitiveness, the space for making mistakes and staying curious about the outcomes or the space for exploration through powerful questions, we would not have discovered anaesthesia, cornflakes, viagra, the pacemaker or play dough! Most of these discoveries happened whilst inventors were working on something else, made a mistake or were doing something that sparked their curiosity and imagination to the extent that it took them down the rabbit hole of discovery.

10 Power Questions to Facilitate Expanding Curiosity

Our brains are efficiency machines and will naturally take the path of least resistance and gravitate to the status quo because it saves energy. To borrow a line from Taylor Swift we need to ‘shake it up’ when it comes to encouraging our brains to take a different route and we can do this through the questions that we pose.

These questions can also play a role in fostering a culture of curiosity if we coach leaders in using them well. We can chunk down into detail to facilitate problem-solving or chunk up into possibility to help generate insights.

  1. Tell me more
  2. Take me through your thought process
  3. What could that look like?
  4. How could we make this problem even worse? (reverse brainstorming)
  5. Why do we currently do it this way? (in an open-minded tone)
  6. What could we do differently?
  7. What would happen if we stopped doing this?
  8. What if we were to do the opposite of what we’re doing now?
  9. What could we do that would utterly and totally surprise our customers? (replace ‘customers’ with any stakeholder group you are working with)
  10. If this problem were actually a solution, what would it be telling us?

Curiosity and the i4 Neuroleader Model

Curiosity forms one of the core pillars of Innovation in the i4 neuroleader model, developed by Silvia Damiano of the About my Brain Institute. This personal effectiveness and leadership model delves into and uncovers those attributes, attitudes, skills and traits required to lead effectively in today’s complex and uncertain business environments. When it comes to further developing curiosity, i4 helps with strategies for encouraging leaders on how to expand on an inquisitive nature or act on their eagerness to learn.