Lean into curiosity
Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC
We all could stand to benefit from thinking more like a child. Curiosity doesn’t have to be relegated to youth. It’s an essential ingredient for effective leadership, robust company culture, successful team-building, and mental health. Here’s how you can model this behavior at work and at home:
1. Challenge the status quo.
If you’ve ever spent time with a small child, you know they ask “why?” ad nauseum. This is how they learn to navigate the world. The same attitude can be employed by adults in problem-solving situations. For example, why are certain policies and procedures in place? Challenging the status quo is necessary sometimes to move out of stagnancy and stay relevant. Such questions can be posed to reframe your thinking – asking the How might we? or Who wrote the rule? thinking to challenge the conventional way of thinking.
2. Perpetually pursue learning opportunities.
Kids are usually more open to trying something new because they don’t let their ego get in the way. Adults can follow suit by going out of their comfort zone. Whether it’s enrolling in a masterclass online, reading a book on a topic outside of one’s domain or even learning a new language, such a pursuit can make us better-rounded leaders and citizens of the world. This year I am doing a deeper dive into optimize.me and their mastery program to hone my skills.
3. Dare to create for the sake of creating.
Children are naturally inclined to build and take apart, to then build again. Robotics challenges around the country are teaching kids the importance of problem-solving in a group setting. Champions of these programs say exposing young people — young girls in particular — to STEM-related careers is critical as we need engineers and data scientists to build and maintain the machines of the future. However, leveraging problem-solving capabilities is only part of the equation. Business builders must also see around corners. They imagine what is possible. And they see opportunities where others might just see problems or obstacles.
If you need a primer on how to create without fear, watch a group of these kids in action. They don’t have an agenda other than focusing on the task at hand. This is a good lesson for adults who may feel stifled by expectations to create something flawless upon the first attempt. What project(s) would you take on if you weren’t afraid to fail? Out of every 10 things you try, how many do you have to get right to be judged successful?
Think more like a child and you may discover your life’s a little richer. For further reading on this topic, here’s how to identify your “curiosity type.” I will confess upfront my type is Type 1 – “the fascinated” making me intellectually curious and a handful for my parents growing up!