Just a few weeks ago, I was standing outside my husband’s boyhood home. We had just arrived from a long commute and began to mill about the yard hoping to catch a few coveted summer rays before going inside to greet his family. In an effort to stretch our legs, we walked around admiring the beautiful flowers that adorned the flower beds. Dainty roses and friendly zinnias not only caught our attention but gathered our admiration as we gazed upon their eye-catching colors. It was then that my husband remarked about how fascinating bees were when they are busy at work. We both crouched down to watch these tiny laborers go from flower to flower harvesting pollen. We sat there for some time, just enjoying the ambiance of a simple experience. In that moment I felt as if the hands of time had somehow been reversed and my husband and I both experienced child-like curiosity and wonder.
When was the last time you felt truly curious? Can you recall the last time you deeply understood something new? I’m not sure exactly when it happens—the time that we lose our innate ability to learn and be curious. Nevertheless, moments of curiosity are the spark of human brilliance. Holding onto curiosity can have a huge impact on your personal satisfaction and can be a powerful catalyst for enhancing your career.
With how important lifelong curiosity is it’s no wonder that Amazon selected “Learn and Be Curious” as one of its Leadership principles. Amazon’s website says the following, “Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.”
Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you try to develop the traits that help you learn and be curious:
1. Learn How to Learn
No matter how many years of formal education you have engaged in it is important to understand how you learn. Each of us learns best when we understand our learning styles. Some may be kinesthetic learners while other thrive when material is presented audibly. Perhaps you are a visual learner. The first step toward deep learning is understanding how you learn best.
2. Learn from others
Each person you meet comes with a collective and individualized set of experiences and talents. There is something to be learned from everyone. One way to learn and be curious is to take a vested interested in the lives, knowledge, and interest of others. Looking outside of our own knowledge can expand our horizons and allow us to collect ideas that we could not conceive on our own. Doing so takes humility and concerted effort but when we recognize that there is something to learn from every person we meet, we truly ignite possibilities that would have otherwise remained dormant. Understanding that human interactions can be the greatest education can be an important catalyst to learning and being curious.
3. It Takes a Village
Most of us have probably heard the common saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” but do you thoroughly believe that learning and creativity also take a village? In Carol S. Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success she shares that many times when we think of creative geniuses we imagine them working alone only relying on their own creative abilities (55). She writes, “Try to picture Thomas Edison as vividly as you can. Think about where he is and what he is doing. Is he alone? …Edison was not a loner. For the invention of the lightbulb he had thirty assistants—well-trained scientists—often working around the clock in a corporate-funded state-of-the-art laboratory!” (55). Learning and creativity takes its most powerful form when working with others.
4. Learning and Innovation are Inseparable Principles
In the book Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin shares that true creativity does not strike in a moment of pure epiphany like that of lightning bolt, but rather that individuals can best create when they have had years of preparation (159-160,164). Furthermore, he shares that “Organizations can take two other steps…tell people what is needed and giving them freedom to innovate,” (163). Leaders and companies that believe in their employees’ creativity and brilliance will yield unforeseen growth. When human creativity is not bound by stringent prescribed guidelines, employees feel empowered and impassioned to create innovative ideas. Just as bees work together for the collective good, employees bring with them unique view points and perspectives that contribute to the collective good of the company. Organizations thrive when employees are given the chance to innovate, learn, and think outside the box.
5. Technology is the Petri Dish of Innovation
Working in technology leaves lots of room for innovation and learning. More than ever technology is changing and evolving daily. At 1Strategy we see this first hand as we witness the new innovative services and technologies that are coming out at Amazon Web Services. Being a learner is essential in a career of ever-changing technologies. In the book Strengths Finder 2.0, learners are encouraged to do the following, “As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies…You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up” (Rath, 135).
So again, I return to my initial questions. When was the last time you felt truly curious? Can you recall the last time you processed something totally new? Don’t allow yourself to become so consumed with your ever-growing to-do list, appointments, and tasks to be completed that you forget to learn and be curious. Taking time to develop these skills can be essential to enhancing your personal satisfaction and can contribute greatly to your company’s growth.