RANDYGRAM – Did Curiosity Really Kill the Cat? I’m Just Curious
Albert Einstein downplayed his obvious intellect and once said: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”.
We may not achieve the insights he gave us about time and space and gravity, but I promise you that curiosity is vital to success in any endeavor and that with practice, you can improve your own sense of curiosity.
Research tells us that curiosity improves our ability to define problems, develop solutions and in general gives us a better sense of satisfaction.
I have a child, now a young adult, who has been naturally curious since her earliest days, constantly asking questions about why? how? and what if? I recall picking her up from a tennis lesson when she was about 14 and unconsciously starting to turn the dial from a news report on the 2008 financial crises to a music station. She heard a bit of the host interviewing someone from Wall Street, stopped me and said: “Dad, what’s a quant? Let’s listen to the rest of that story”. So we did, and we both learned something.
Your work and personal life are complicated and each day you are faced with many choices and decisions to make. I recommend that you approach both the routine and the unexpected with a sense of inquisitiveness. Ask yourself and the people you interact with questions. Lots of questions. “Why do we do it that way?”, “What options do we have”, “Will that change to the project allow us to finish on time?” “Is there a precedent for that approach?”
Before you make a sales call, write down several questions that you want to ask. They might be specific questions that give you vital information, but they should also include broader, open-ended questions that allow your customer or prospect to provide insight and background. As a bonus, you will surely learn what they are passionate about.
In my career, when hiring people, I always seek out and lean heavily toward the candidates who demonstrate a strong sense of curiosity. And asking questions of my direct reports is the primary way I conduct weekly status checks and quarterly evaluations.
The Socratic Method can be intimidating, but my simplified version is that Socrates used questions and challenges to various positions and encouraged his students to probe and investigate claims others made.
As to the proverb referenced in the title, it has been around for centuries and suggests that we might be better off if we were not so curious. I ask you, is that likely?