I found this quote from Walt Disney, and found it inspiring. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” I find it interesting that one of the most innovative persons of the past century attributes much of his success to one simple word, “curiosity”. Curiosity leads to new paths. Do you have a healthy level of curiosity in your life? Do you enable your teams to be curious? Great questions to ponder for a leader today.
The need for new paths
First, let’s explore the idea of needing new paths. There are some that may throw doubt on this fundamental assumption. Do we need new paths?
Without a doubt, I say “yes”, we do. There are those who are afraid of new paths. There are many that believe a new path will lead to taking a header off an unexpected cliff. But the reality is that we must constantly be exploring new paths or someone else will come along and discover it without us.
I work with a couple of industries that are constantly exploring new paths. Healthcare and IT. These industries are constantly evaluating, changing and exploring new ways of doing things. The turnover of information, especially in the IT field, is rampant. We have to learn almost an entirely new paradigm every 3-5 years. And when you couple IT and Healthcare, you are looking at almost a constant state of turnover. Some believe that the healthcare tech industry “turns over” every 2-3 years. I recently wrote about the research that said as much as 1/3 of our knowledge is made obsolete each year.
That means the brilliant new technology that you came up with last month, will be obsolete before most people can get it to market.
Develop Healthy Curiosity
If you are interested in exploring new paths for your company, you must first build a “curiosity culture” in your organization. But how is that done? Here are three ideas:
- Recruit for curiosity
- Be curious about what’s going on outside your walls
- Promote “curious” ideas
Recruit for curiosity
If you want to have a curiosity culture, you need to find employees who are curious. Many traditional corporate clients do not promote this. I’ve heard it stated many ways in interviews and board rooms:
- “He doesn’t have any experience in this industry”
- “We’ve never done it that way before”
- “That may work in XYZ company, but that will never fly here.”
Promoting a curiosity culture means getting out of your comfort zone and bringing in people that may look at things a little different than you have. I see this in some industries much more than others. Banking and healthcare are two industries that seem to very susceptible to this line of thinking. And while there are certain areas where industry knowledge is important, a healthy mix of people from outside the industry would bring fresh ideas and new perspectives that may lead to breakthrough performance.
Be curious about what’s going on outside your walls
Here’s another problem that plagues corporate America. Companies have egos. Some of them have HUGE egos. Egos lead us to make bad decisions. Egos lead us to NOT be curious.
I’ve worked in some large corporate environments. And one thing that many refused to do was to look for solutions from other companies and especially other industries. Yes, every industry has its uniqueness. But good ideas can come from other companies and other industries.
To do this, companies have to stretch outside their comfort zones. Get involved with groups where professionals gather and share ideas. Network with peers in other industries. Actively participate in groups where next-generation thinking takes place. Send team members (not just management) to seminars and training sessions where they can learn what others are doing.
Promote “curious” ideas
If your organization is really interested in stretching their comfort zone, begin trying “curious” ideas. What I mean by “curious” ideas are those that stretch your imagination and give you a chance to do something radically different. The first time I introduced agile techniques to my organization, it was a “curious” idea. I had read about agile, attended some seminars and talked to some peers who were doing it. I invited one to come to one of my team meetings and help us get started. He ended up leading a workshop for us to help us get started.
What started as a “curious” idea, ended up being a game-changer for our organization. Agile spread rapidly through the IT department. And, before long, it was being implemented in a variety of areas in the organization. But it would never have happened if I hadn’t taken a chance to try something incredibly different from our traditional waterfall approaches.
A similar thing happened with social media marketing a few years ago. It was a relatively new concept, and the company I was with had no social media presence to speak of. To begin a specific strategy around social media marketing seemed like a stretch. And it took a while for it to catch on. But eventually, it led to opening new doors and gaining exposure to a new customer base.
Start Now Building a Curiosity Culture
Would you like to learn more about how curiosity leads to new paths of success? Culture changes are never quick. If this sounds like something you are interested in implementing, you should start now. You have to figure culture changes take 6-18 months to take hold. If you’d like your organization to be more curious next year, you have to start now.