I wrote recently about the fresh start September offers us, with the back to school mindset of our younger days! This time of year also reminds me of what it was like to be a school age child, to be eager and open to new experiences. To be curious and ask endless questions with no self-consciousness because we were all learning, all of the time. 

Professional life quickly strips us of our curiosity as we are told repeatedly that ‘this is how things are done around here’ or there seems to be some unwritten rule whereby asking questions is not to be done. It is a counter-productive corporate norm that serves no one. So this Fall, I’m urging you to get curious. Get curious about the world around you, the people in it and your contribution to its growth and sustainability. 

Why curiosity is important:

Curiosity fuels learning and continuous improvement. Curious professionals actively seek new information, skills and perspectives. This allows them to stay competitive.

Curiosity builds stronger relationships. Asking thoughtful questions shows colleagues you are interested in their work and ideas. This boosts collaboration.  

Curiosity enables innovation. Questioning the status quo and exploring new approaches sparks creative problem-solving. This helps drive progress and change.

Curiosity indicates ambition. Eager learners stand out as engaged and motivated. Leaders notice and reward this drive.

How to cultivate curiosity:

  • Ask questions often. Inquire about processes, projects, people’s backgrounds and more. 
  • Explore topics beyond your role. Take interest in other teams and functions.
  • Admit when you don’t know something. Be comfortable saying “I don’t know, please tell me more.”
  • Have lunch with someone new. Discover different perspectives.
  • Read industry publications. Stay updated on trends and developments. 
  • Attend talks or events outside your field. Gain exposure to new concepts.

Curiosity also plays into the notion that leadership is not about a bestowed position; it is a combination of character traits that bring out the best in others. Without my personal and professional curiosity – my calling to serve – I wouldn’t have been able to lead change in my communities or career. My curiosity about the world has also fueled my travel ambitions, enabling me to vacation and work in countries around the world which in turn builds my cultural competency. 

Here are some key skills and leadership competencies that curiosity can help develop:

Self-awareness – Introspective curiosity about one’s own strengths/weaknesses builds self-knowledge.

Active listening – Asking thoughtful questions shows genuine interest in others and improves listening abilities.

Empathy – Seeking to understand different perspectives builds empathy. 

Adaptability – An openness to new information makes one more adaptable to change.

Problem-solving – Questioning the status quo sparks creative solutions. 

Strategic thinking – Curiosity about the big picture, trends, and systems cultivates strategic thinking.

Influence – Showing interest in colleagues’ work and ideas increases influence.

Collaboration – Asking questions and learning about different roles improves teamwork. 

Growth mindset – Continual learning and asking questions cultivates a growth mentality. 

Vision – Curiosity about the future direction of one’s organization shapes vision. 

Innovation – A willingness to experiment with new approaches fosters innovation.

Agility – Openness to evolving ideas and contexts enables agility. 

Confidence – Curiosity to take on new challenges builds confidence.

Curiosity helps strengthen key interpersonal, strategic, and leadership competencies that are critical for professional development and career advancement. The right spirit of inquiry fuels growth. The key is pursuing curiosity with empathy and purpose. A thoughtful, positive sense of curiosity has the power to enrich professional success.