Curiosity is like a delicate flower, easily crushed underfoot, often without noticing. If you want it to flourish within your team and your organisation, you need to create safe environments in which people know that there are no wrong answers and no poor ideas. Begin by taking a moment to reflect on your own situation.
Take a moment to reflect on what you and other leaders say versus what you actually do. I continually witness a disconnect between language encouraging innovation and the cut and thrust of many calls and meetings where curiosity is seen as an annoyance. The message is clear: Stop asking questions.
When then should questions be asked?
- To what extent do I genuinely want to encourage curiosity?
- Where do I encourage it?
- Are there limits?
How do I communicate all this?
Can I think of recent occasions where I:
- Actively encouraged curiosity?
- Actively discouraged curiosity?
- What was the context for each?
What Might I Learn from This?
Once you have clarity around the place for curiosity in your organisation, it may be helpful to reflect on how you might tweak your current approach. Here are some points to consider.
- Creating boundaries: Are team members clear as to when questions are welcome and when they aren’t?
- Building safe spaces: Whenever curiosity is encouraged, do I ensure everyone truly feels free to say what is on their mind?
- Being non-judgemental: Do I classify ideas into good idea and bad idea? How might I be more creative?
- Practicing patience: How much time do I allow on the agenda?
- Nurturing budding ideas: How might I embrace fresh ideas in ways that open them up rather than shuts them down?
- “Say more about that…”
- “What else would you suggest?”
- “If you were in charge, what would you do?”
- “How might we apply that?”
- “What else might need to be reconsidered?“
- Showing appreciation: Do I thank everyone for their contributions?
What Change Might I Make Today?
The first key step is becoming increasingly aware of how you actively or passively engage with curiosity. And equally importantly how this is communicated to those around you. So, as you prepare for your next meeting, simply ask yourself:
What one small step might I take today to encourage more curiosity?
Questions in the Image:
- How might I be encouraging or discouraging curiosity?
- Why am I acting in this way?
- What might I do differently?
Want to Contribute to Research on This Topic?
If so, click here: Research: Openness to Curiosity. This short survey, which is hosted on Google Forms, explores our openness to curiosity. Lend your voice to this research and, in the process, you may also prompt valuable reflection on your own leadership practice.
Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. Just now, the international space station is passing in the sky, and this generates a whole series of questions as to our future as a species. No other planet we know of can offer us the home we have here. So, why do we show such disregard for the only home we have?
What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.