Working Towards Mindfitness: The Curious Mind
October 23, 2020
We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
- Walt Disney
One of the greatest blessings for a curious person is that they will never get bored! In fact, the benefits of curiosity don’t just stop there; curiosity has been linked with psychological, emotional, social and even health benefits.
Curiosity and exploration can help us to embark on some of our greatest adventures. They are the first steps our mind takes toward some of our greatest discoveries. Learning something new, overcoming challenges and exploring our potential are all possible because we are curious and we have the desire to explore.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity." I must admit I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.
What is Curiosity?
Curiosity is the engine of intellectual achievement. Those who are more interested in a topic will learn faster and prime the brain better for learning. Curiosity is also associated with high performance in both academic and work settings, and there is an increasing amount of evidence that suggests that the more you learn, the more you want to learn. In many ways, curiosity is the catalyst of innovation and curious people have an ongoing, intrinsic interest in both their inner experience and the world around them.
Curious minds are active minds, and active minds become smart minds. Curiosity is associated with intelligence, creativity and problem-solving ability. Curious people cultivate interesting and creative environments for themselves as they seek out new experiences and are open to exploring new ideas and possibilities. Everyone possesses curiosity to some degree, although people will differ according to the depth and strength of their curiosity and their willingness to act on it.
So How Do Leaders Empower Curiosity?
It is important to understand that successful organisations are rooted in curiosity, and establishing a culture that actively supports and rewards questioning minds is the foundation for success. Inquisitive thinking, of course, can lead to the status quo being challenged and this in turn can be disruptive. If there is a disconnect between the leader’s and team members’ view on the value of curiosity, then it could potentially stifle a baseline level of ideas exploration. On that basis it is essential that leaders understand the benefits of curiosity and fully open their own minds in the process.
This reminds me of a time I worked in a team with someone who was one of the most curious people I have ever met. He liked to leave no stone unturned! Our manager at the time was very much an autocratic leader and clearly did not enjoy being challenged. During team meetings my colleague would always drill down on any instructions she shared, thirsty to fully understand whatever he was being asked to do and the motivation behind any directive.
In one team meeting, during his usual line of scrutiny, she eventually snapped back at him "Why do you have to keep asking so many questions?" to which he immediately replied, "Why wouldn’t I?" Even our frustrated manager smiled and raised an eyebrow at his response.
Embracing questions and encouraging inquiring minds in a team is critical to progress and also exploring a wider perspective in each given situation. We are living in an age where thinking differently and turning ideas into innovation is key. This is an idea economy where business success and indeed survival is often defined by the ability to turn ideas into value faster than the competition. Creating time and space for curiosity will encourage creative thinking and support growth mindsets within teams.
There is also more of an emphasis on encouraging employees to learn, unlearn and relearn so that they stay current in their thinking and let go of redundant approaches. Continuous learning is of paramount importance when it comes to building a smart, relevant and fit for purpose workforce.
Curious minds will also be more inclusive and better equipped to respect and appreciate diversity because curious minds will want to learn about other people. Encouraging your teams to learn from each other and share rich and diverse experiences will encourage stronger, more supportive relationships as well as promoting inclusivity.
It is also really helpful through times of uncertainty and rapid change to encourage curiosity, as this can help people within your team to manage the fear of the unknown. Curiosity will help them to look upwards and outwards and be interested in what they will learn from the experience. Curiosity can indeed be very valuable for everyone in these unprecedented and challenging times.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.
- Albert Einstein
From: Old Man's Advice to Youth: 'Never Lose a Holy Curiosity’ LIFE Magazine (May 1955)