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VOL. 133 | NO. 136 | Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Graber

Michael Graber

Curiosity is the Common Denominator Among Our Best, Most Systemic Thinkers

Michael Graber

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I have a question. I really do. Why have there been so few formal studies on curiosity and its immense power to create value in the for-profit and non-profit sectors? Even on most of the professional assessment, strength finders, and behavioral audits, curiosity is not codified and measured. I don’t understand. Do you?

Yet, curiosity remains the secret ingredient of our best and most systemic thinkers, those who change their fields in unforeseen ways, making an indelible impact on the world.

Here are two examples. “I have no special talents,” proclaimed Albert Einstein. “I am only passionately curious.” Then, in his now-famous commencement speech, Steve Jobs said, “Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. … Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

These two examples make it plain that a deep and abiding curiosity leads not only to the unknown and makes life and work an adventure, but that it is the great lever of creativity itself.

Yet we have no formal trainings on how to be more curious or how to apply it in our work lives. Even the literature on the subject is sparse.

There is the great and charming first-hand account of his many Curiosity Conversations by filmmaker Brian Grazer, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. Then, there is the potent call-to-action against the ADD-like social media and Google usage, a primer of sustained curiosity: Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends Upon It by Ian Leslie. A few lesser tomes fill out the thin exploration of the endlessly fruitful subject.

As a consultant to more than 150 organizations I see things go awry when curiosity is repressed. If you want to have a successful organization, if you want an amazing career, cultivate curiosity. Curiosity is the essence of empathy. Curiosity is the root of passion and interest. Inherent in curiosity is a willingness to reframe and question everything. When curiosity fades, our connections fade. We get depressed, isolated. Performance wanes.

I’d propose honoring curiosity as the real mother of invention; necessity just acts a stimulant to enact the line of questioning. We need to formalize how we mentor curiosity.

I have another question for you. Why limit yourself or your team? Inspire curiosity. Let us all explore the possibilities, and as the great poet Rilke says, live the questions. Only then will curiosity get its proper credit in the role of business and the social sector and lead us to being a better species and having a healthier planet—and the money follows, just look at Glazer or Jobs if you are curious.

Michael Graber, managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, can be reached at southerngrowthstudio.com.

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