Did Curiosity Really Kill the Cat?

By Alan Gehringer

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Merriam-Webster Definition of CuriosityDid Curiosity Really Kill the Cat?

  1. 1:  desire to know: 
         a:  inquisitive interest in others' concerns :  nosiness 
         b:  interest leading to inquiry <intellectual curiosity>
  2. archaic:  undue nicety or fastidiousness
  3. 3   a:  one that arouses interest especially for uncommon or exotic characteristics 
         b:  an unusual knickknack :  curio 
         c:  a curious trait or aspect

So, how curious are you?

In this blog, let’s use the first definition listed. As a business consultant, it is my job to be curious about others, and although I may sometimes be unusual as definition number 3 states, I have a genuine interest in what makes others tick, how they became successful, their failures, perspectives, drive, passion, goals, vision ... and the list goes on. I recall having this interest in others even when I was young. I remember my junior high and high school friends asking me why I cared to listen so much to what the adults around us had to say. I figured they knew a few things I did not, and by George, I was going to take in all that I could from them.

To be a good leader, you need to be curious and come to the table ready to ask questions, not give all the answers. That is not an easy task for the typical Type A personality. It requires being humble and open-minded while being willing to admit you do not have all the answers. In doing some research on this topic, I came across some ideas that can help leaders regain their curiosity. 

7 Ways to Regain Your Curiosity

  • Listen without Judgment – Do not come to the interaction with an agenda or pre-conceived notions of what the outcome should be.
  • Ask a lot of questions – Use how, what, when, where and why as you develop your questions. Use open-ended questions rather than closed ones to keep the conversation moving forward.
  • Be fully present – Be in the moment and make the person you are interacting with the most important one in the world at that point in time. You might be amazed how good you can make others feel when you are truly interested.
  • Be willing to be wrong – Think win-win as Stephen Covey would say, and do not worry about being heard or being the only one that is right during the interaction. Exercise humility and have the courage to be vulnerable.
  • Allow “Think” time to be curious - Apply it to your winning moves and other business opportunities and challenges. Consider what your ideal outcome would look like if there were no constraints, then explore ways to get there.
  • Don’t be afraid not to know – seek out others who may have a different perspective or knowledge that you do not possess. Find the “Who” that can fast track your learning and give you another opinion.
  • Do not let past experiences hold you back – Per David Sandler, we all have record collections that develop during childhood, and patterns we accumulate along the way. While these can be very good, sometimes they can hold us back, too. Do not be afraid to take risks and break out of old habits and patterns.  

When asked to name the one attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the turbulent times ahead, Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell, Inc., replied, “I would place my bet on curiosity.” Dell was responding to a 2015 PwC survey of more than a thousand CEOs, a number of whom cited “curiosity” and “open-mindedness” as leadership traits that are becoming increasingly critical in challenging times.

So, I don’t think it was curiosity that killed the cat, I think it was sticking to the routine and being closed minded. Good luck and get your curiosity back if you're becoming too much like that cat.  

Lead well, Alan

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Alan Gehringer


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