“Why?” If you’ve been around a little child any length of time, you’ve been plagued with that question. Many parents get tired of it and start saying “because I said so,” just to get them to quit.
As the child enters school, she’s taught to look up answers not find them for herself by thinking things through. She memorizes then forgets, as each test comes and goes. Before too long the child learns to repress her curiosity as she merely mimics what others say. Her joy of learning has been squelched.
We should never lose the ability to ask questions, for it reveals the greatest secrets of life. Great inventors, scientists, researchers, and leaders all wonder why something works while something else doesn’t. It’s how they discover wondrous, new things. They nurture their intellectual curiosity.
Intellectual curiosity inspires us to solve problems and think creatively. It takes us on a joyous journey of discovery. As Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron said, “Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.” We should do everything in our power to keep it alive.
You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by looking at things that people don’t usually pay attention to. Use the following suggestions to rediscover your intellectual curiosity. This process can be used in closely examining every aspect of life, from relationships, to systems, to tangible objects.
1. Observe people with mindfulness. You can learn a lot, without becoming intrusive, as you notice what people do and say, wonder why they do it, and how it makes the participants feel. You’ll begin to notice behaviors, emotions, and patterns that give you insight into what makes people tick.
2. Ask questions that promote observation. Look at a situation with fresh eyes and consider:
- Where does this work? Where wouldn’t this work?
- Why does this work? Why doesn’t it work?
- When does this work? When doesn’t this work?
- Who will this work for? Who doesn’t this work for?
- What elements work? What elements don’t?
3. Ask the question that promotes change – “what if?” People daily encounter frustrations that need solutions. You could be the catalyst for change by simply identifying an innovative solution. How can you do this?
- Train yourself to make notes about every frustration you see, anything from communication breakdowns to products that don’t work. Just create the habit of note taking what you observe.
- Identify the underlying problem that creates this frustration.
- List possible solutions. What if it was bigger, smaller, faster, slower, kinder, or more forceful? Let your imagination run wild with possibilities.
- Mentally or physically take it apart to see if it’s a feasible solution. By dissecting every aspect of your solution you’ll identify places that need more work.
Remember, this process of mindful intellectual curiosity works not only for tangible objects but also for examining your life experiences and processing what’s happening with your emotions, too. It allows you see all sides and make adjustments as needed.
It takes practice to keep your intellectual curiosity alive. Why not choose an idea, product or service that is an unexpected success and apply the above suggestions. That will get you started. If you’d like to delve deeper into how you can become a great leader, please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).