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How Curious Are You?

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

Curiosity: the strong desire to know or learn something. Do you have it? Do you practice it?

If you don’t know, ask yourself these questions: How curious are you about other people when you meet them? How curious are you about what is happening in your business or industry?

A Harvard Business Review article explains many benefits of being curious. Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • For one, it enhances intelligence. In fact, children have been shown to increase their intelligence test score by as much as 12 points if they are normally more curious than their counterparts.

  • Second, curiosity increases perseverance, or grit. Just describing a day on which you felt curious has been shown to boost mental and physical energy by 20% more than describing a day of profound happiness.

  • Finally, curiosity leads to deeper engagement with others. Don’t believe it? Try out a new hobby you’re curious about, watch a documentary on a subject you want to learn more about, or ask more questions with your friends and acquaintances alike, and watch your connections grow! Plus, curiosity helps us work better in group settings, and open communication pathways among teams.

The most curious people I know are toddlers. It seems that they ask “why” several hundred times a day! The back and forth of “Why?”-“Because.”-“Why?”-“Because.” – often to the point of extreme parental irritation – never ends with children. Why? Because they are trying to figure out the rules. They are testing and verifying and retesting and reverifying. They are learning and growing their neurological pathways.

Some of us continue to question “why” throughout our lives. Others have the questioning conditioned out of us. Many stifle curiosity, out of fear of risk, failure, or inefficiency. In one study of 3,000 employees nationwide, only 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Our greatest advancements as humans have come from curiosity. For instance, someone asking, “I’m curious; why can’t I summon a regular person to drive me where I need to go?” created Uber! Someone saying, “I’m curious; why can’t I rent out a spare room in someone’s home, as opposed to renting an expensive hotel room?” created AirBNB. One of the largest "steps" for mankind – landing on the moon – was prompted from basic human curiosity of outer space. In fact, almost every new business, product, or service was built off of mere curiosity.

If you want to be more engaging at the next party, or you want to build better rapport with your next client, be curious about them. Ask great questions, pay real attention to the answers, and you will have better relationships, better results, and you may even discover the next great advancement in our lifetime!

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