Rummaging around an old bookstore in London I came across a bright yellow-covered book, with one word on the front, ‘Curious’. The book, written by Dr Todd Kashdan, uses science, story and practical exercises to show you how to become a curious explorer, what he terms ‘a person who is comfortable with risk and challenge and who functions optimally in an unstable, unpredictable world’.
To have a curious mindset, or a powerful orientation to explore, you of course must ask questions. It is important to understand that actually knowing more is closely linked to the ability to identify opportunities for where we could create value from new ideas, or to innovate. You have to look out beyond where we are now to what may be emerging, whether it is new trends or social changes, or technological advancements and the impact that they are having on the world of work.
There is something here about creating the space for this to happen. We know that many ideas are random – they come from nowhere it seems, and don’t just appear in a brainstorming session at work. We are often under so much pressure to perform, to get things done, to make things happen, that we are chasing ourselves throughout the day, the week, the month, with rarely a second glance back at how we were doing all those things. The pace at which we were working, the frantic, meeting-orientated culture we are part of, crams the curiosity space out of our lives.
Being curious is also about not judging or labeling something too quickly, or putting it in the ‘I don’t like box’ or ‘I’m not interested, it’s not my thing.’ We can develop a mindset of curiosity by not just discovering the new, but by becoming re-interested in things and people that are familiar and trying to see them with a new perspective.
Here are some top tips for actively encouraging a more curious mindset.
1. Press the pause button, take a deep breath, just stop and watch, what is happening, both in you and around you?
2. Pick an activity that you find unappealing, or that you don’t particularly enjoy i.e. watching a sport you don’t like, going to see a play that you think will be boring, listening to music that you don’t normally listen to. Search for three things in the activity that you found unique or novel. Carry this open mindedness throughout the week and see what else you notice.
3. Resurrect an old hobby or an interest that you once loved to do as a child, and rediscover it. Dedicate an evening, or part of a weekend to exploring this interest and notice how it makes you think and feel and if it re-stimulates your curiosity.
4. Next time you reach for your mobile phone out of habit, pause and stop yourself. Time how long you can go without looking at it and stay present to the conversation or activity that you are part of. What is happening?
5. When in conversation with other people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without making assumptions or categorising them or the topics you are discussing. Resist the temptation to judge.
Make these curiosity mindset activities part of your life. This isn’t just good for being more present to life, it will also help your ability to think, to have new insights, as space is created, and insights have room to percolate and bubble up to the surface.
A curious mind is often a creative mind.
Published in Management Today on May 22, 2018.