The Idea: Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” He believed there was nothing more important than this attribute, and he was right. A 2015 PwC survey of more than a thousand CEOs, stated “curiosity” and “open-mindedness” are the most important traits to thrive in this new economy. And a study at the University of California Davis showed that curiosity enhances one’s ability to learn and retain new information. An inquisitive mind encourages creativity, challenges norms and is a catalyst for idea generation. Curious cultures are positioned for success. Have you developed your curiosity muscle?
While researching my book, Dark Horse: How Challenger Companies Rise to Prominence, I uncovered numerous examples of entrepreneurs—including Sundial Brand’s Rich Dennis, GOJO / PURELL’s Joe Kanfer, Yes To’s Ido Leffler, and Whole Food’s John Mackey—who all relied on questioning everything. Their mental model was one of challenging norms and never trusting that the future will look like the past. They were inquisitive, artistic and not afraid of a well-positioned question. Curiosity fueled them and they were comfortable being uncomfortable.
Embracing uncertainty requires healthy leadership. It requires questioning yourself and acknowledging the possibility of being wrong. Humility serves you and encourages others to share ideas, allowing everyone to better connect the dots of innovation. Dismissing the insecurity of “not knowing everything” enables the far greater promise of creativity.
Shunryu Suzuki (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind) once said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” The expert’s mind is, in some ways, a trap. Though armed with knowledge, it also burdened by it, and those who are “experts” are slower and less curious because of it.
The most curious people I know have a beginners mind. They willingly adopt other’s views, see things as they are, and are free to re-examine their own assumptions, including their own preconceived opinions.
Most of us listen to others but actually hear an echo of our own opinions. Curious people ask bigger questions, they are attentive, interested in learning and not fearful of confronting the truth.
Do you embrace the beginners mind?