Curiosity - Key ingredients for innovation * Blog series

For innovative solutions one must always remain curious. How curious are you?

Many of us have heard this phrase: - Curiosity killed the cat. I have two cats, so not only do I find this phrase sad, but it is not helpful when it comes to innovation. It is far from true.

I will often refer to the phrase we've been told/taught because, well, it is true. As human beings in today’s world, we are constantly being boxed in -- whether by a stereotype for our gender, by our geographical culture or our industry’s culture -- and that does not help. In this case, I refer to the fact that the majority of use were told to be quiet or scolded when we asked questions. “Stop asking questions!” Or, we've been judged or misunderstood and labelled nosey. Granted, there are humans out there who will ask just to be nosey, but in the world of innovation, WE NEED to be curious.

Be curious about everything. Come in wanting to learn and see what new insights you will take away.

We need to ask questions, many, many questions --not just to our customers to get to know and understand their needs, but to our team members to encourage sharing ideas and to ourselves, to challenge us and check where we are in our creative journey: How much do we need to step put of our comfort zone? How much do we need to pull back from our crazy ideas?   

When you start your projects, come in wanting to learn. Come in with an open mind, knowing that you don't really know how you will get to the solution you are seeking. You will know the process, but you don't really know what the solution might look like, how many times it will need to be tested, how many times it will fail. Be curious about your team members: How do they define innovation; what is each person’s biggest limiting belief? Be curious about your organization: Why now? Why this topic? What do they expect?

When curiosity disappears -- so does innovation

See, being curious will not only give you a lot of information, but it will help you remain open, always keeping the BIG picture in mind and in focus. One of the most common habits in the teams I work with is that they believe they already know what the solution will look like and who their ideal customer is and how they are going to deliver. Doing this, coming in with this lack of curiosity because they "KNOW," keeps them focused on one thing: their egos. This means they are less likely to look at the bigger picture, to be open to the human centred-approach. Why would they if they already KNOW everything? And the saddest part is that they are only looking at what makes them look good, which is being right – again, ego. This ends up preventing them from listening to customers, in not sharing ideas with others and not accepting ideas from others, and in feeling like a complete failure when they test their solution, in going them to their leaders or managers and blaming the process. Because of course, the ego is never wrong. Lesson: When curiosity disappears, so does innovation.

Uncovering the curious you

As human beings, we are curious by nature. How did we learn how to walk? How did we learn all the basics? By asking questions, right? And if you are around children, you KNOW they are curious: Why is the sky blue?  Why does mommy and daddy have to work? Why do I have to go to school? Why is that person crying? And, oh, so many more questions come tumbling forth. This is great news; this means that you don't have to discover your curious self, it's already there, it's been there. You just need to uncover it, dust it off and put it to work.

You can start by, again, giving yourself permission to be curious. It's okay, really. Now, not only are you an adult who can ask questions, but you also have enough insights and knowledge to know that you are asking questions with good intentions, with purpose and you how to be prudent -- well, most of us know!

Once you have permission, you can start being curious and get to know what you want out of this process, project or team. Let your team members know that it's okay to be curious, that it is okay to ask questions. If you are a leader, know that your team is asking questions in order to learn, not to challenge or offend you. Don't let the ego take over.

Stay aware. Self-awareness will help you identify when you are shutting down questions or when you shift your mindset and don’t take in what the customers are saying. When, instead of asking further why's (read the Power of why), you are quietly saying, “Hmm, that is not true, this person knows nothing.” While ego is the biggest blocker of curiosity, and self-awareness is the biggest supporter.

So, go out! Ask questions, be open and stay curious. Curiosity expands our vision and opens our minds to innovation.!

Self-work: Time to reflect and grow

You have permission to be curious. Reflect on what this means to you and how you are going to begin practising this on a daily basis. 

  1. How do you feel about curiosity now, what's that relationship like?

  2. How clear is it to your team that it is okay to be curious?

  3. If it is clear to your team, how are you making sure you have the big picture in front of all of you as a focus?

  4. What are you curious about in general? When will you go discover those answers?

  5. Write down your curiosity mantra, the phrase that will help you move forward when the brain wants to stop you from being open.

If you are an innovator or you are interested in the topic of Innovation and would like to work with us, give me a shout.

#innovation #designthinking #curiosityandinnovation #curiousinnovator #blogseriesinnovation

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