004: The Power of Curiosity

Curiosity is one of the most valuable skills you and your team members can have. It leads to positive change, new ideas, streamlined systems and clarified communication.
Notes from today’s show:

Welcome back to the Engineering Your Business podcast, the show that helps business leaders like you do more with what you have.

I’m your host Shawn Washburn.

Do you remember your child’s first word? If you don’t have kids, do you remember your own first word?

It might have been “mama” or “dada” or “blah” or something like that. So precious. So sweet. “Oh, she just said her first word!”

Every parents loves that first word (unless of course it was “mama” and you’re the dad).

But most parents despise the first question.

Oh, that first question that children learn and then use over… and over… and over.

I think you know it. It’s “why”.

“OK, Billy, time to get your PJs on” “But why?”

“Because it’s time to go to bed” “But why?”

“Because you need to get your sleep” “But why?”

“Because… honey, you want to step in here at some point?” “Why should honey step in?”

You get the picture. If toddlers have a PR problems it’s the “why” problem. Why can’t they just be satisfied with my first answer!!! we think to ourselves… after we’ve put them to bed finally and settled down for some Netflix.

But what I think is so cool is that we are born with a natural curiosity. Remember that kid that had to be told to ask “why?” Yeah, me neither. It just comes natural to us when we’re little. After all, we spend nine months in this warm, dark little pool and then suddenly we’re yanked out, surrounded by a room full of people staring at us, wrapped into a little cloth and left to try to figure out “what in the world just happened”.

It’s natural that we should want some answers. And now. Unfortunately (or fortunately for most parents), kids can’t actually articulate the word why for several months. Kind of like a gracious breather for parents before the onslaught.

But all the parental frustration aside, it’s pretty amazing to watch little kids operate like that and it’s a skill that I believe is one of the most important to have… and yet is often so rare. Curiosity.

Maybe it’s because it’s been beaten out of us by the time we’re 4 (“Stop asking why!!”).

Or maybe it’s because the world becomes more familiar and slows down a little bit for us and we just settle into an understanding of it. Or so we think.

We feel we know what’s going on or accept what we’re told and we just go with the flow.

Or maybe we used to ask questions but got in trouble for it and lost that curiosity.

Whatever it happened to it, it’s something I believe is crucial for you and for your team members if you want to really thrive in your business.

Let’s start with you, because they will follow your lead. Are you curios about the world around you, or do you just go with what you know, or think you know? Equally as important is this: are you approachable?

Because if you set out to encourage a culture of curiosity, you need to be willing to be challenged, questioned, to change and grow on your own.

I’ve had the privilege of mentoring a lot of co-ops (interns) over the years where I’ve worked. And one thing that I tell each of them when we first get going is that I want them to question everything. Yes, everything. They’re coming in, seeing with new eyes, learning and processing. I want them to turn over the rocks in our organization, question why we do things that way, explore possibilities of a different approach. I don’t want their ideas to be limited by budget or how we currently do things or that thing we tried before that didn’t work five years ago.

I’ll be honest. The good ones, the ones that are willing to take me up on that, can sometimes make me a little uncomfortable. Especially if I have more of a personal fingerprint on that process or design. But if I really want to make it better, I listen and we discuss.

I truly believe that some of the best change can come from when new people enter your team. If you allow them and encourage them to be curious and if you’re willing to be approachable and discuss their ideas.

You might be amazed at what you’ll find.

Now… if they come in and just ask why over and over… well, that’s a different story.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode.

I can’t wait to connect with you again tomorrow