How to be more curious at work

by | Oct 7, 2018 | Blog | 0 comments

How often do you think kids ask questions?

About 70 to 80% of the time they’re talking, according to the authors Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas in their Harvard Business Review article, “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions.”

These numbers come from the poll they conducted and quoted in their article. The authors explained they asked more than 200 of their clients to estimate the number of questions they heard their kids ask as well as themselves.

How often do you think adults ask questions?

About 15 to 25% during their conversations – about a third less than kids!

Questions are a great way to:

  • Learn new things
  • Practice creativity
  • Show interest in and be responsive to others
  • Earn respect for being inquisitive
  • Improve your mental and physical health

Asking questions takes time though, and we adults often have a need for speed at work. So our tendency is often to cut to the chase and just do the work.

Yet, we are short-changing ourselves and our work, especially as our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world is changing so quickly around us.

We need to question the status quo more often and be more curious about what we’re doing.

Don’t worry about curiosity killing the cat or derailing you and your projects at work. The opposite happens.

Curiosity leads to a wide range of benefits for leaders, employees, and their organizations, according to new research as reported in the September-October issue of the Harvard Business Review.

When employees are more curious, decision-making errors decline. More innovation occurs in both creative and non-creative jobs. Group conflict goes down. Teams communicate more openly. Overall team performance improves.

So how can you become more curious?

Besides asking more questions, you can take some or all of these five actions to get your curiosity juices flowing:

  1. Get comfortable saying “I don’t know” more often. That encourages you and others to acknowledge uncertainty, be at ease with it, and figure out what to do.
  1. Ask yourself what you can learn from others and about A fellow consultant introduced me to this concept years ago. It’s an amazingly simple yet powerful tool to help me remember to simultaneously seek out new content knowledge as well as personal information. As a result, I can learn while building stronger relationships.
  1. Set goals for learning. Make an effort at least once a quarter, twice a year or annually to focus on learning something new, either on your own or through a class. The act of learning as well the new information can stretch you.
  1. Broaden your networks in and outside of work. Eat lunch with co-workers in other departments. Do volunteer work in a new community or neighborhood. Changing perspectives will give you new perceptions.
  1. Try a new experience at least once a quarter, or more often if practical. This could be consuming a different media, traveling to a new location, reading or watching a book or movie of a different genre, or even eating a new food. You’ll not only get out of potential rut, but you’ll also get exposure to something new that can give you a different outlook that can influence how you view work.

To get maximum value from any of these methods, approach them with an open mind. That means reserving judgment about others and your reactions to them.

Instead, take time to relish each novel idea and experience. And ask yourself, “What’s at least one good learning I can glean?”

Or at a minimum, you should at least gain a good story to tell.

And, you’ll also have the satisfaction that your curiosity is helping you adapt to uncertainty and grow as an individual.

Do you have the courage to be more curious?


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