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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds So what can you do? Well, when working with organisations, I answer many questions about how to improve curiosity. We often make the mistake of thinking we know how things should be. [CHUCKLES] When I worked as a doctoral chair my, students would tell me what they thought the outcome of their dissertation would be. That made them direct their research that way and try to force a conclusion. That’s what we see in the workplace, as well. Many people are afraid of being proven wrong or failing. Facebook says move fast and break things, and they believe if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 seconds Since we have limited time here, I want to instil with you what you can do to improve curiosity and some usable takeaways. I recommend exploring those four factors of fate including what you fear, what assumptions you make, if you over under rely on technology, and what environmental factors have inhibited you. In the planning process, there are iterations and contingency plans that must be developed. What happens when things don’t work or go as planned? That takes curiosity to develop alternatives. How you develop contingencies can depend upon other people. How do you reward them for their ideas? Do you say things like don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions? Then you might not recognise problems.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds It’s up to leaders to set the stage for overcoming fate by allowing them to be– allowing yourselves to be vulnerable. Leaders can demonstrate your own curiosity and model that for teams. [SOFT MUSIC] Consider the leader for the Chilean miner disaster where those men were buried under all that rock. If you’ve not yet watched Amy Edmondson’s TED talk about how they used curiosity and collaboration to work well together, it’s a must. They had a goal. They pulled together to reach that goal. That required that they asked questions, thought outside the box, because no one had ever done that before. They did something that no one had ever accomplished, and they had limited time.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds We must obtain ideas from all different places and assimilate those ideas into a plan. People often create plans and then share it for input. That can be backward. We need to get feedback to establish plans. If people feel comfortable providing that input, our plan will be more effective. I was just at a meeting for a company in San Francisco. They hired us to be on the board to help them with input. When we got there, they already created content for their site. They had a mission, a vision, everything. The problem was, the mission and vision weren’t clear. The content was not necessarily useful, and if they’d come to us first, they could have saved a lot of time and effort.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds Now, they have to go back to the drawing board. In any team, everyone has ideas about how to accomplish the goals in the best way. That doesn’t mean they’re going to share those ideas. They probably think their idea is better than yours. It might or might not be. It’s essential to solicit opinions, even from the most reluctant members, so they know you value their input. Even if you don’t use their input, sometimes it validates their importance. You might need other information from them in the future, and then you set the stage for them to be open to contributing. We need to knock down barriers.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds That’s what I do when I train people, and what you can do on your end for now is to recognise you don’t know what you don’t know. And we all make assumptions. And there are more tools today, and many things are automated. Remember that the output of technology is only as good as what you put into it. We must envision what doneness looks like. If we have status quo thinking, we might have a limited idea of what doneness could really be. We need to consider the functional spec, the customer, the end product, that doneness criteria, stakeholders’ expectations, you name it. Everyone could have different ideas of what things should or could be.

Skip to 3 minutes and 41 seconds We can work on developing curiosity in our current employees, and we can always look for curiosity in the people we hire. Just the next time you interview someone, ask them to close their eyes, describe things they saw when they came into the interview. How observant were they? Part of having a good sense of curiosity is that ability to be curious and recognise patterns.

Skip to 4 minutes and 2 seconds But for your current employees, you can instil a desire to explore through developing the desire to read. Amazon created the You Are What You Read programme, where executives created a team that had an executive reading list. They picked a book and discussed it as a team, and they talked about the operational execution and actualization. They debated what to do relative to the ideas from the books, and when creating proposals, they wrote narratives as opposed to creating PowerPoints because writing forced them to communicate better. By debating effective alternatives, they focused on getting away from the status quo thinking. Be curious. Think about bigger issues and not just your product. Go upstream, downstream. Explore the bad days when things go wrong.

Skip to 4 minutes and 45 seconds Explore those through the eyes of the customer. Steve Jobs said we all need to start with the customer and work backward. Projects can be too centred on the business case when they should be tied into the customer and the brand. But when you challenge a status quo, you know, you’re worried about ruffling feathers, and that’s why a curious culture has to start at the top. They must allow mistakes. They must have trust and ability to challenge. Having entrepreneurs within organisations can help because they can be innovative champions. They can persuade others to question things. They can create maybe under-the-radar programmes with not too many eyes on it and build momentum to become a beacon of insight, which can spark curiosity.

Skip to 5 minutes and 25 seconds Leaders need to recognise that sometimes other people have unique perspectives that can be, I don’t know, create better outcomes. And it’s critical to avoid the hippo, H-I-P-P-O, problem because the highest-paid person opinion is not always the right one. You have an opportunity to break away from status quo thinking and into a world of possibility and unlimited potential. As you leave here today, what are you going to do when you hear the bell ring? [BELL RINGING] Are you going to stand up and sit down without explanation? I hope not. Thank you so much for having me join you today, and I hope this is really helpful to make you just a little more curious.

What to do

In this video we explore what you as an individual can do to enhance and improve curiosity.

We have identified the key inhibitors in the final week of this course, so my next step is for you to ask yourself:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • What assumptions do I make?
  • Do I over or under-utilise technology
  • What environmental factors have inhibited me?

In the next activity of this course, you will complete your final quiz. We will then look further at the next steps you can take to continue your curiosity journey.

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This video is from the free online course:

Innovative Leadership: Developing Curiosity

FutureLearn