be curious at work

Why We Should #BeCurious at Work

Curiosity is an interesting thing!  

To be curious is both a strong desire to know or learn something as well as a strange or unusual fact. This month I had the opportunity to attend and coach students during career week where my daughter’s attend elementary school. It’s tough competition at career week – going up against the police, firemen, nurses, pilots – all careers that even students in Kindergarten can easily understand. The funny thing about kids is that they want to know, they seek to understand – where as most adults if I told them I was an Agile Coach would just shake their heads without asking for any further explanation, even though I’ve had many a friend confess that they actually have no idea what I do.

Note: The other funny thing about kids is they carry around many, many germs. I’m still recovering from a cold worse than any I’ve had in years.

Being Un-Curious

What would happen if in our business, creating a marketing campaign, a new software solution or putting together financial statements, we didn’t ask any questions?

Let’s take a marketing campaign – if a marketing strategist came along and said “let’s use images of bugs when we are trying to sell more baking flour to customers.” Would we just take at face value that was the right approach? Wouldn’t we say “That’s a terrible idea, I don’t want to imagine bugs in my flour.” Why is it any different than asking a questions if they said “Hey, let’s use images of flowers.” Maybe an appropriate question would be “What market research shows us that flowers will trigger a customer to engage with the campaign and understand how our flower is better than the other brand?”

Being curious is required in any business – because we need to seek to understand our customers and what creates value for them. If we do not have a good understanding of what value looks like from our customers perspective it’s quite frankly just too easy for them to be 1 to 2 clicks away from doing business with someone else. We need to ask why, when and who for everything we do.

Why Aren’t we Curious?

Why do we lose our curiosity? Is it a fear of looking like we don’t know something? Maybe we don’t have enough time to practice being curious?

Think back to a time when you were a primary school student and you asked a question in class – and maybe the other students laughed at your question. If you had the type of teacher that reprimanded the laughers and encouraged all questions – that teacher was creating a safe environment where curiousity was encouraged. But what if you didn’t have that teacher – but instead had a teacher that laughed along with the kids, or didn’t encourage your questioning.

Now fast forward to the business world – where regular reduction in force events occur. The same being unsure of ourselves and our decisions as when we were children exists, only now there’s more at risk.

Creating an Environment to enable Curiosity

Regardless of if you are a leader or a team member – we are all responsible for creating an environment where curiosity is not only valued, but celebrated.

As leaders we can model curiosity by asking questions we may already think we know the answer to. Funny thing, I’ve tried this and been happily surprised to find out I was wrong in my original thinking.

As team members we can ask for feedback early and often and be vulnerable in our openness to feedback – hence creating an environment where the rest of our team may ask questions.

Most importantly we can each individually look at problems and opportunities with a beginners mindset – whenever possible put aside your own preconceptions and motives and listen to learn.

Originally by CMG Senior Consultant Kim Scribner on LinkedIn.