Where Might I Start?

Like much else of the human experience, nurturing curiosity is a habit and can be cultivated not only in children but also in adults. Its benefits are instant, giving you an opportunity to reflect on what you are observing and hence change course, saving energy and resources and obtaining better outcomes.

My first suggestion is that you become more curious about cultivating and developing your curiosity – about the types of questions you are seeing. Just ask yourself:

  • What do I take for granted?
  • What no longer excites me?
  • Where might I become more curious?
  • What might I not be noticing?
  • Or, worded differently, what am I not questioning?

You are then invited to gradually expand your daily practice to both formal and informal practice (i.e., structured and unstructured). To sustain you on that journey I offer you:

Ask yourself:

Can I contemplate one question for one minute?

>>> Challenge yourself now!

I often hear some form of “I don’t have time for reflection. I’m too busy getting things done“.

My question is always the same: “If you don’t pause to look up, how do you know you are going in the right direction?

The intention with these reflections is to show that far from being a passive exercise, it can be a highly active process that allows us to identify the key next steps.

Each reflection focuses on a particular aspect of our lived experience through a series of “Beautiful Questions”. David Whyte, the poet, thinks of beautiful questions as those questions that can help shape one’s identity.

I prefer to think of them slightly more broadly as those questions that make us take stock and think about who we are, what we are doing and where we are going. In a way, all the questions in this Nurturing Curiosity series could be beautiful questions, provided they speak to you. They encourage us to reflect on:

  • What have I learnt?
  • What do I need right now? and
  • What are my intentions?

My invitation would be to carve out moments each week, and if possible each day, to reflect on what next steps might be calling you!

Decision-making is one of our core biological functions. Our minds and bodies are continually making decisions – both in and out of consciousness. These decisions shape us and what we do and don’t do.

Let’s make this real!

  • How did you decide to read this?
  • What question are you looking to answer?

Equally importantly, how will you decide what to do next?

It feels more of an art than a science and yet it has aspects of both. The key point is that we are born with certain innate decision-making capabilities, but it is ultimately how we think and what we question that shape our conscious decision-making.

Group decision-making adds a series of variables around group dynamics, status, power and simply different ways of understanding the world.

  • How then do you approach decision-making?
  • What would you like to learn more about?

This section contains a number of articles specifically on decision-making and explores themes such as problem-framing and decision coaching. If you would like to think more about time and decision-making, the Time Academy Podcast may be of interest.

I don’t believe in “right questions” or “better questions” but I do believe that bigger questions can begin nourishing conversations with ourselves and others. They are the building blocks for nurturing curiosity.

Please think of these questions as conversation starters. Also remember that questions are a reflection of the person asking them so don’t be afraid to ask:

  • What are they assuming?
  • How are they framing the world?
  • How might they be skewing my thinking?

Explore some Practice Questions that have offered fresh perspectives to clients or to me personally over the past while.

Nurturing curiosity clearly isn’t just about questioning. It goes beyond it into how we turn up in the world, our mindset, how we observe and so much more down to even how we label (i.e., name) what we see. And yet, questions are key.

  • So, where do questions come from?
  • How do we determine the proper questions to ask?
  • How do we continually deepen our enquiry?
  • How might we generate more insightful questions?
  • And, are there tools and techniques to generate more such questions?

Humanity has been exploring these questions throughout recorded history. Indeed, the Socratic method for one has stood the test of time and its principles continue to be applied in various fields such as education, law, philosophy, and even business, where it can facilitate better decision-making, collaboration and learning. And yet, because we are curious by nature we haven’t stopped there, and new methodologies continue to be developed.

Click here to explore some Questioning Tools and Techniques that help with nurturing curiosity.

Further Reading on Nurturing Curiosity

Challenge: What Am I Not Questioning?

Curiosity is a way of being. It is a way of looking at the world, not from a perspective of judgement (What is wrong?) but rather from a perspective of humility (What am I not seeing? What am I assuming?).

Like pretty much every other aspect of our daily experience, a questioning mindset is a product of our daily practice. The more we question, the more questions we see. The more questions we see, the more likely we are to fall upon truly insightful and interesting questions that will shift our lives. These are the essential questions that truly cut to the chase and help us focus on the outcomes that matter to us.

The following questions are thus intended to inspire you to hone your natural questioning instinct and to be more curious both about how you show up in the world and about the world around you.

These questions are not intended to be the “Right questions” or indeed “Better questions” than what you might come up with but, as I said, are merely designed to inspire you to come up with your own daily questions.

My invitation is to ask yourself these questions each morning and to gradually replace them with questions that are more meaningful to you:

– What is important for me today? What is urgent for me today?

– What might I question today that I didn’t question yesterday?

– What can I do less of today?

– What can I do better today (1%+ improvement)?

– What significant decision can I make today to shape my legacy?

Also, consider putting these questions in your back pocket and bringing them with you throughout your day:

– How did I decide to do this activity?

– How will I know when I have done enough?

– Who or what give me energy? Suck energy from me?

– What might benefit from being seen more playfully?

– How can I expect less of myself and of others?

I know from personal experience that building a practice of ongoing daily questioning pays dividends cross all aspects of life and work. Ultimately, it is about the process rather than any outcome.

Indeed, when you have been doing it for a while you will see that the process is the outcome. That in itself teaches us to instinctively seek out the bigger questions and try and make our worlds that bit bigger as a result.

Feel free to email me (Tom) your answers or indeed your own questions.

How Might I Maintain My Sense of Wonder and Curiosity?

My sense is that it all comes down to “noticing”.

The more we notice, the more opportunities we create for wonder and curiosity.

This is a habit that can be nurtured over time. For me, it starts when I get up in the morning. From brewing up my first coffee and deeply sensing the aromas to walking outside and soaking in the wonder of creation.

As you go about your day, the invitation is to take a few extra moments whenever you can to notice the world around you, starting with the moment you wake up.

  • What is the first sight you see when you open your eyes?
  • What might you have stopped noticing?

No matter if you are in a very rural or highly urban setting there is so much to wonder at.

And once you start noticing more, ask yourself what you find interesting.

  • What intrigues you?
  • What piques your curiosity?
  • What haven’t you been noticing?
  • What have you been taking for granted?
  • Who have you been taking for granted?

Remember, there is an endless supply of wonder and curiosity in the world. You can drink to your heart’s content.

Research Focus: Unlocking the Power of Curiosity in Leadership

Dear Reader,

It is hardly controversial to say that all great breakthroughs and discoveries throughout history have been the result of curiosity. They have been driven by someone asking some variant of: “What might be possible?

And yet, research (Gino, 2018) shows that despite awareness around the benefits of curiosity and much language about encouraging innovation, most leaders actually stifle curiosity.

This disconnect raises two key questions for all leaders:

How do I cultivate and harness curiosity within my organisation?
How might I be stifling curiosity?

I am currently researching these broad questions and would love to get your perspective. From late 2023 on, I will run a series of brief surveys exploring different aspects.

By participating in any of these surveys, you will contribute to a better understanding of how curiosity shapes leadership and the barriers that might stand in its way.

Just click here to complete the current survey: How Open Am I to Curiosity?

Your experience and wisdom will be invaluable in this exploration.

Please don’t feel you have to answer every question. Just answer the ones that resonate with you now!

All responses will be treated with absolute confidentiality. Rest assured that any findings published will be stripped of any identifying information.

Best regards

Tom O’Leary

 

Reference:

Gino, F. (2018). The Business Case for Curiosity. Harvard Business Review, September–October. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/09/the-business-case-for-curiosity