Be Incurably Curious

Curiosity (s)killed the cat?

It appears that curiosity may well be the final human frontier …at least for the foreseeable future! Artificial Intelligence is taking over every aspect of our lives, but at least for now we are still driving the questions. In fact, A.I. owes its very existence to the curiosity of mankind. Perhaps in the long run, it is this capacity for curiosity that will continue to distinguish man from machine?

When asked recently to name the one attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the turbulent times ahead, Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell replied ‘I would place my bet on curiosity’. See HBR: Why Curious People Are Destined for the C-Suite: Warren Berger.

Curiosity is indeed becoming one of the foremost future-proofing skills. It is the skill that will define inspirational leaders, and allow us to deal with the complexity and uncertainty of the world that we live in. It is our ability to look at the world and submerge ourselves so deeply in the mystery that all we are left with are our questions, our wonderings, our what-ifs?

Ian Leslie, author of 'Curious: The Desire To Know And Why Your Future Depends On It'. Defines curiosity as a ‘Trait Cluster’ made up of a combination of intelligence, perseverance, and a wanting or what he calls a ‘hunger’ to know'.


In my view, curiosity is as much the characteristic of having an enquiring mind as it is the skill of formulating the right question. What makes curiosity a game-changer is knowing what to ask. It’s the quality of the question that is important because it determines the quality of the answer. There will always be a small group of people happy enough with the status quo that they never seek to question. For this group, those not seeking, not yet daring to ask – irrelevance will be the answer. For the rest of us, curiosity can become a learned behaviour. It is a relentless training of the mind to always look beyond the obvious, to ponder the question, and to unbind ourselves from the need to be certain.

Here's three practices to relentlessly pursue if you want to cultivate a ‘Curious Mind’

1. Prolific Reading

Reading provides exponential knowledge growth. It is a well-known fact that the average CEO reads four or five books per month. Let me ask you if this is the benchmark how do you compare?

If you want to develop your Curiosity Quotient (yes another quotient) becoming a prolific reader is what is going to set you apart.

When Warren Buffett was asked what he thought made him so successful, his response was to point to a pile of books whilst staying this: ‘Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.’

500 pages a day, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. But don’t despair if that seems an almost impossible target to meet. There are some ways to make this more achievable. Firstly use Audiobooks to maximise the time spent in traffic.

Alternatively, increase your reading speed. There is a great online course available on Udemy, alternatively there are lots of free versions such as Readspeeder available.  Just a note of caution, it does, of course, matter what you read…


2. Let Others Be Your Guide

Engage in conversations with ‘experts’ or thought leaders from a variety of fields.

Don’t just stick to what you know. Staying in your comfort zone will deepen some of your knowledge but it won’t expand it. In Systems theory we are encouraged to have ‘An open systems perspective’. Which means looking for links within the broader environment. Not just what is always in front of your nose.

Take time to engage with your employees, not only from your department but wander into other areas. Take the time to ‘shoot the breeze’ see things from a different perspective and go directly to the experienced sources of knowledge. We spend too much time with our direct reports, knowing full well the perils of groupthink. To read more about this dynamic and how to overcome it follow the link below:


3. Look For Sources Of Inspiration

This can only be done by following various sources of interest. Look at your LinkedIn or Twitter feeds, I bet 80% of your feeds are related to your specific industry.  So how will you expand your horizons? For example, if you’re into developing your design thinking skills don’t only follow design thinking experts. Follow architects and designers to understand and see the world through their eyes. 

Attend a conference relating to a different industry, and reflect on ways to apply what you have heard to enhance your current context. Listen into conversations. Listen to hear and understand, not respond, and question, question, question. What did they learn? What led them to their understanding? etc. Watch TED Talks and Youtube videos, download a slide share from LinkedIn, and attend a free course through Coursera. There are so many to choose from. Again choose something totally unrelated to your comfort zone.

To be inspired you need to put yourself out there and try new things. When was the last time you tried something new, something totally out of the ordinary? 

It is our curiosity that distinguishes us from machines. Curiosity represents our sense of wonder, our desire to steep ourselves in the mysteries of the universe. Developing your own curiosity is now more important than ever. Ultimately, curiosity will mean the difference between surviving and thriving in this ever-changing world.


Adapted from an article by Knowledge Bank guest writer Kerryn Kohl, who is based in Australia and founder of The Coaching House.

Posted On: 19 Feb 2020