This is how to cultivate your curiosity and grow your career

Curiosity, by definition, is the urge you feel to know more about something.

There is more to curiosity than just its definition.

“Curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney

Being curious helps you creatively solve problems in life and a work.

According to Oregon State University research, “as workplaces evolve and jobs become increasingly dynamic and complex, having employees who can adapt to changing environments and learn new skills is becoming more and more valuable to organizations’ success.”

In today’s complex business landscape, employers are looking today to hire creative problem-solvers who are curious.

Have you noticed people at your organization are naturally curious? They are easy to identify because they ask a lot of questions. Curious people seem to be born with the need to ask deep questions about almost everything.

According to a PwC global survey of more than 1,000 CEOs, the traits of curiosity and open-mindedness are desirable traits in new employees.

So how can you become more curious and help you grow your career?

Here are 10 tips to help you successfully cultivate your innate curiosity:

1. Become comfortable with the unexpected and unfamiliar

Curious people are generally more adaptable and tend to react more favorably to change because they are open-minded and willing to consider different perspectives, which leads to better thinking.

As you gain more work responsibilities and become higher up at your company with more authority, more power, and more leadership.

But there is always too much to do with too little time so they often shut themselves off from other people and ideas.

However, people who cultivate their curiosity are drawn to the unexpected, unfamiliar, and unsolved problems.

You don’t have to look farther than improv.

Improv is a live theater environment where the plot, characters, and dialogue of a game, scene, or story are made up in the moment.

The important rule of improv is “Yes, And,” according to the book: Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration.

Since everything is created on the spot, it’s imperative to say “yes” to whatever your fellow actors bring to the table and add on to it. If you’re not listening to your scene partner, you’re missing most of the scene.

The power of improv

According to Will Hines, the author of How to Be the Greatest Improviser on Earth, improv will help you:

  • Consider saying yes to things and see the value in that option more often than you did before
  • Listen deeper, fuller, and more actively
  • Brevity: improv rewards succinct, direct talk.
  • Empathy: You’ll see things from other people’s points of view
  • Become braver: You’ll become more comfortable with people watching you
  • Be present: You’ll worry less about the future and more what the moment feels like
  • Knowledge: You’ll learn something you don’t know
  • Clearer opinions: You have opinions all the time but you don’t realize it so you’ll become clearer expressing them in an “yes and” way

Those who work in improv understand how much prep work is involved in improvisation. With more practice, you’ll be a little more relaxed on your feet.

By thinking like improv actors do, you’ll be acting more in real time, responding quickly to current events and set a new direction on the fly.

As a leader, if don’t have enough experience and understand how to improvise successfully.

With enough practice, it can become second nature for you to become great at “yes and” to what is happening now, helping you become more curious, and help you become comfortable being uncomfortable with unexpected and unfamiliar things happening to you at work.

2. Tap into your innate nature of asking questions

In some organizations, curiosity is reserved for the “creative types.”

However, curiosity is an inborn element of human nature is shouldn’t be reserved for certain types of people.

It is important to tap into this “inner sense” and cultivate your ability to ask smart questions.

Here are some tips on how to ask better questions:

  • Plan your questions. Before your meeting, write down your questions ahead of time
  • Determine your purpose. Every question you ask helps you gather facts and opinions.
  • Open up the conversation. Go beyond asking simple “yes” or “no” questions and ask “open-ended” questions that gets the other person or people to talk so you gather more information.
  • Ask questions with words such as best, favorite.  Ask questions like “what do you best about your job?” instead of “do you like your job?” and ask questions like “what was the favorite part of your day?” instead of “how was your day?”
  • Use questions where wording doesn’t include judging, leading, or bias words. By asking neutral questions instead emotionally-charged questions, you do not direct or bias the answer. Neutral questions don’t carry a hidden-agenda and allow people to think deep about the answer. For example, you can ask: “What process did you go through to determine your needs?” or “what kind of challenges are you facing?” or a simple one: “what are your thoughts?”
  • Put your questions into hierarchical order. Rank your questions so you begin with the “bigger picture” questions and dive into the specific follow-up questions to get more details.

3. Stop interrupting others

You can show your curiosity in the ways you interact with your colleagues and other people you work with. By interrupting someone else,  you show them you are not interested in what they have to say.

“Wisdom is a reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you [wanted] to talk.”

Doug Larson

How can you learn how to stop interrupting others?

  • Don’t speak up in meetings for one or two weeks unless you are addressed directly. Listen and jot down notes instead.
  • Only ask questions, don’t give your opinion and take notes. Ask questions such as “where did you find that information?” or “What do you think the outcome would be?” Take notes on the answers.
  • Spend time with time with people you admire who don’t interrupt others. Start modeling what you like about them when they communicate with others. Schedule coffee meetings or informal meetings with them to ask for their advice and constructive feedback.
  • After taking a little break, start provide your thoughts in meetings and keep notes on how others are reacting to your thoughts. Keep emphasizing listening over speaking.

Success leaders spend more time listening than talking. By becoming genuinely interested in other people as outlined in the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, people will start telling you things that they have never told you before. Everyone wants to be listened to and some people are just waiting for people ot listen. Listening and taking interest in others is infectious because other people will see your behavior and others will start doing the same.

4. Foster curiosity through different spaces and work

To foster your curiosity, enter different different physical spaces at work or outside of work and engage in different types of work. New ideas are sparked when you enter different environments.

For example, dim lighting and ambient noise may lead to more out-of-the-box ideas

There are certain times, when you need work in isolation and there are times when you would benefit from a different surrounding or do a different type of work assignment.

By understanding how your work environment affects your work, can create the conditions to be curious.

5. Reinvigorate your curiosity, don’t let success stop it

To spark your current curiosity, it is important to take a look back in the past and find out what experiences or activities sparked your curiosity.

For example, you may have been a runner and you stopped running because you got too busy. By running again, your curiosity level can come back and you can come up with more questions and ideas.

When you are successful at work or winning games in sports, everything smells better even though you may not being engaging in the right habits.

“Success is a great deodorant. It takes away all your past smells.”

Elizabeth Taylor

Once you identify what you makes you more curious, find opportunities to be put into those situations.

Just because you are successful doesn’t mean you are curious.

By taking a fresh look at your everyday work environment, you can find startling new insights that could save time, money, or resources. You never know what you might uncover when you’re curious.

6. Make your ideas count

Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Successful people know how to gather the knowledge and information necessary to generate ideas.

“Ideas come from curiosity”

Walt Disney

Not everything you try will help you, your colleagues, or your organization. However, by trying new things, you constantly challenge the status quo and bring new ideas to life.

Here are some ways to get people to listen to your ideas.

Be audience-centered

People will listen to you if you show you’ve listened to them. Use the “yes and” approach we talk about earlier and build beyond what your audience said.

Have a clear message about your idea

Your audience is most likely to listen to when you have one idea. Make sure you really understand what your idea is by thinking about it and boil it down to the main points of your idea.

Count out loud your key points on why the idea is good

By saying out loud, “my first reason is…” and then “my second reason is” you have a clear structure that encourage listening. People love lists.

Slow down

By slowing down, you can get your audience to listen to you and give weigh to each of your thoughts. By pausing between your key points, your audience better absorbs what you said already and what you are going to say.

Use body language

Look at your audience in their eyes and stay away from your notes. The way you use your eyes, face, gestures, and body can shape the way people listen to you.

By following these tips, you will help your listeners truly hear what you have to say with their minds and hearts. By making your ideas count, you increase your ability to gain a promotion, improve your personal brand, and to advance up the corporate ladder quickly and effectively.

7. Deepen your understanding

If you know a three-year old child, you will see that they ask “what” “why” and “how” with everything they see around them. They want to know more and don’t limit themselves to what’s right or wrong, they just ask, ask, and ask.

As we get older, we get trained to lose our curiosity and ask all the questions that come into our mind.

We go about our days having “surface-level” conversations without digging into more details about a colleagues day and what they are working on.

Curiosity is the genuine desire to learn more. To explore. To go deeper. To truly understand.

Curiosity led theoretical physicist Albert Einstein to the Theory of Relativity. Without curiosity, physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton may not have discovered the Laws of Physics. Curiosity led physician-scientist Alexander Fleming to discover Penicillin.

Curiosity never ages.

A neurological study demonstrates that curiosity makes our brains more receptive to learning.

It is like compound interest.

As we learn, the more we enjoy the sensation of learning. The more we want to do it.

The problem is many people stop being curious about new experiences as they go about their everyday lives, assume work responsibilities, and build their work-life routines. Their sense of wonder starts to escape them.

Curiosity fuels our imagination and deepens our understand which is fundamental to our success. Curiosity prepares your brain for learning, and acquiring new skills. Don’t take ordinary things for granted.

8. Tackle challenging assignments

Many of us fear, uncertainty, and doubt to hold us back from being curious.

Curiosity helps overcome the dull, passive, and reactive life where you are feeling like you are going through the motions of daily life.

When are you learning new things, challenging yourself, meeting new people, and opening yourself up to what the world has to offer, you have little time for being negative, bored and stagnant.

By taking on challenging assignments at work or in your personal life, you make your brain work hard. These challenge opportunities require deep thinking and thinking beyond the same old techniques.

When you take head on a challenge assignment, you gain a new perspective, a new idea, and most importantly, a new skill of thinking creatively, creatively, and curiously.

This thinking about a complex task or an taking on an unfamiliar project will help you approach your career with a positive attitude and help you become more strategic about your thoughts, your ideas, and your solutions.

9. Challenge your perspective

Need new ideas? Try changing your viewpoint.

When you approach things from a different point of view, you tend to frame things differently. Instead of seeing the challenges or the world, you see the opportunities and possibilities.

It was a great reminder of that old saying, “We don’t see things how they are. We see things as we are.

You will be amazed at what you see when you look at things from a different perspective.

If you always look at an obstacle from the same angle, it’s hard to come up with an innovative solution.

By changing your perspective, you can see something new where you connect the dots between different ideas and perspectives.

If you see a problem from a a different business units perspective, a problem from an executive level or a problem from an external source such as your customers, your vendors, or your agencies, you can come up with a better solution.

The happiest and most resilient leaders are willing to admit they don’t have all the answers. They understand it just takes a slight shift in perspective to see something familiar in a totally new light.

10. Get out of your comfort zone

People with a high curiosity quotient rarely seek out the comfortable.

Part of this process of stepping outside of your comfort zone is to ask questions such as”

  • What am I drawn to?
  • What am I avoiding?
  • What do I fear?

Your answers may surprise you, and spark new self-discovery and the next uncomfortable thing becomes a little bit easier.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Albert Einstein

How to become comfortable being uncomfortable

Here is how to take those small, daily steps to help you become comfortable being unconformable.

  1. Take nothing for granted. Embrace suffering of losing a job, getting a divorce, or not getting a promotion as a learning experience and a way to make sure you don’t become complacent with what you have at work or in life.
  2. Tweak your routine. Routines are important but find ways to make small but meaningful ways to change them a little bit such as a new route to the office, a new lunch place or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  3. Give up some control. Delegate something that you know how to do such as social media, speaking at the quarterly staff meeting, or leading a weekly meeting.
  4. Start conversations with new colleagues. Strike up a conversation with a new employee and welcome them to the company. Take them out for coffee or lunch. They will be looking for new people to meet and learn more about their new company.
  5. Get in front of the camera. If you are shy on how you look to others, you don’t like how you look or sound or camera, try something that challenges you and makes uncomfortable. You will learn something about yourself you didn’t know.

There are always ways you can do to put the unconfortable into your daily routine. Things like creating your daily or weekly to do list and creating a separate list of your growth goals such as join Toastmasters to learn about public speaking, read more books about a certain topic, or join a board of director of a local association.

When you are able to embrace the uncomfortable, you will absorb more new information and cultivate the desire to learn more about new things.

Bringing it all together

Curiosity is a strong predictor of a person’s ability to creatively solve problems in the workplace.  You can only harness curiosity and make the most of curiosity if you recognize and accept the need to make time for it.

Curiosity is a critical part of developing a “growth mindset” that will help you make you a better employee, a better leader, and gain a better grasp on the different perspectives of the world.

Like any muscle, the curious brain works better with practice. Curiosity is a rising career super-power. Regardless of your age or career trajectory, curiosity can help you take your own career to the next level.

The best thing about having curiosity is that it will help you transform into a lifelong learner and help you drive your personal and professional growth.

How has your curiosity helped your career?

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