Curiosity is a bit like the compelling urge to scratch an itch. It makes us want to seek out more information. It can make us want to find valuable problems to solve in our business.
Behavioural economist George Loewenstein developed the information gap theory of curiosity in the 1990s. He believes curiosity is a critical motive that influences behaviour and arises when we feel a gap ‘between what we know and what we want to know’.
You’re more likely to seek out information if you’re curious about something, because that’s how you ‘scratch your itch’.
In today’s business environment, you often need to search for problems in different places or outside of your current offerings to create a gap between what you know (or think you know) and what you want to know. Being motivated to find and solve your biggest problems is at the heart of innovation. Curiosity is the fuel for inquiry, learning and discovery – it’s critical for organisational growth.
More progressive leaders understand the future belongs to those who are curious. It is how they find their most valuable problems, turning insights into opportunities.
Mercer Pacific’s chief customer officer Cambell Holt, says “curiosity is and always will be a core leadership competency.” Jetstar’s chief customer officer Catriona Larritt, who catches up with a different employee every day, believes “curiosity can start as simply as having conversations. I’m curious about other people. It also helps build connections and solve issues”.
So just how curious are you right now?
This self-assessment will help you identify what kind of mindset(s) you already have and those you might need to nurture. First, rate yourself on the following questions, using a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is ‘not at all likely’ and 10 is ‘extremely likely’:
How prepared are you to go out on a limb and risk a better way of doing things?
How likely are you to be fully present for the task at hand?
How comfortable are you when you don’t have all the answers?
How likely are you to notice things beyond the obvious?
How prepared are you to ask the hard questions?
How likely are you to use a playful approach when learning?
Now mark your responses for each question on the hexagon, where the centre represents 0 and the outside represents a 10.
Draw a line between each mark and then shade the inside area. This is your unique curiosity footprint. It highlights the mindsets you’re strong on, and those you probably need to work on.
These curiosity mindsets can be used to guide and cultivate your own curiosity, as well as those of others in your organisation.