September 1, 2017

Always Be Curious or Not

I lost something. You’ve likely lost it too. We had a lot of it as kids. But something happens on our journey to adulthood that allows it to slip away seemingly undetected.  We lose our innate curiosity and stop asking questions.

It happens to all of us—some more than others. We’d rather stick to what we know. But what we know won’t be enough. In fact, what we know today won’t even be enough to sustain the present let alone allow us to make meaningful contributions in the future.

Reliance on what we know.

Research conducted at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and Harvard Medical School found that our reliance on what know gets more pronounced as we age and gain more experience.

The danger of relying too much on our past knowledge is that we may miss or even reject novel information that does not agree with our previous memories. A polite way of saying we become more stubborn and unteachable with each passing day.

The status quo does not exist.

It should then be no surprise that our curious brain fades away and gives rise to risk aversion. We set the relentless pursuit of discovery and exploration aside for the status quo.

And we do this this without fully realizing the “status-quo” does not exist. Maintaining a plateau or steady state of any kind is always temporary—we are either on our way up or on our way down.

Critical role of questioning.

I talk about “2nd Curve” thinking all the time. The idea of being aware of signs of a pending slide or decline that leads to starting your next race before your current race abruptly ends.

With this in mind, I started to think about what I would need to do to experience a breakthrough. This led me to ask, “What one skill could I improve or acquire that would help me raise my personal and professional impact the most?”

As I was thinking about this, I was reading A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger. In the introduction he wrote, “I never considered the critical role questioning plays in enabling people to innovate, solve problems, and move ahead in their careers and lives.”

Concurrently I listened to Dr. Tina Seelig being interviewed on the Finding Mastery podcast with Dr. Michael Gervais. He asked Dr. Seelig a simple question, “How do you define entrepreneurship. Dr. Sellig’s reply was simply, “Solving a problem.”

What is the problem?

A problem is nothing more than an unmet need. The tool or skill that leverages our ability to solve problems is the ability to ask insightful questions. Our ability to discover and decode what is necessary to breakthrough performance barriers is uncovered by asking the right questions.

As kids we weren’t expected to know much. So our parents, teachers and coaches knew we were going to ask questions. We were rewarded for and encouraged to ask questions. A process that fueled our natural curiosity.

So where did our innate curiosity go? The rewards shifted from asking to telling. The celebration of questions shifted to getting rewarded for being able to produce answers and demonstrating what we knew. So as we gained knowledge and experience, and stopped earning rewards for our questions our innate curiosity got pushed aside.

Art of asking questions.

The fuel that lights the fire of curiosity is the art of asking questions.

Steve Quatrano of the Right Question Institute frames up the art of asking questions perfectly. He says, “Forming questions helps us to organize our thinking around what we don’t know.”

Questions lead us on a journey that allows us to discover what we don’t know about ourselves, the people we love and the causes we are passionate about. They allow us to add knowledge that we can use to deepen relationships and solve problems.

Always Be Curious

So, what skill am I focusing on in order to increase my personal and professional impact? I am working asking better questions. You can think of it as going back to my ABC’s—always be curious.

What am I most curious about? I want to deconstruct and understand what leads to the creation of the highest levels of personal and professional impact and pour out that knowledge to the people I love and work with.

I am always curious about, “How can I get better so I can help you get better?”

At the end of the day I’ll ask, “Did I do my best today to ask curious questions that helped me uncover tools, resources and strategies that create more impact?”

What can I help you get better at?

Recommended Reading—Click to Explore and Order

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger

Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World by Dr. Tina Seelig

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World by Dr. Tina Seelig

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