The notion of intellectual curiosity came up during my keynote last week. In a brief exercise around culture and values a woman in the audience raised the notion of curiosity as a corporate value (she earned a quick $20 spot for her contribution). Powerful. We are living and working in a time of accelerating change. Discovery. Reinvention. Intellectual curiosity and questioning the status quo should be embraced and required among progressive leadership in the approach to business strategy and performance planning. I used to shudder when I would hear the words, “follow the formula” at work. It seemed so crystal clear to me this was the mantra of an ending era. This time around the previous history was no longer going to predict future performance. This time around there wasn’t a clear pattern. Trend line. Process map. Nope. We have never been through this before. We could analyze the previous thirty years of performance against any economic indicator we wanted. Only to draw the same clear and compelling conclusion: it doesn’t really matter. What was good enough to get us here was clearly not going to get us where we needed to go. Now we had to invent! That notion is quite exciting to some. Rather painful to those trying to command and control a compromised position in the marketplace. The curious among us are required for this task. It is a brave new world at work. Curiosity is a core value of mine. I am naturally drawn to those that question the existing order of things. I have always done a bit of that myself. I wanted to know why. Unfortunately, curiosity runs counter to our conditioning. We are conditioned at an early age to follow the formula. Not to talk back. Read the instructions. Do what we’re told. Not ask so many questions. Hand in our homework (which lead to my 6 month boycott and subsequent F in Trigonometry class in High School – not my best moment as a Change Agent). We show up at work and do the same. Don’t talk back. Wait for the instructions. Do what we are told. Don’t ask challenging questions. Hand in our homework. Unfortunately that is exactly the kind of conditioning that runs counter to what is so necessary to thrive at work today – change, innovation, category disruption. It also runs counter to the traditional command and control style of leadership. Today, more open, collaborative, transparent, relational, risk tolerant, even tempered, experiment oriented, humble leaders are better positioned to stimulate the new ideas and disruptive thinking required to advance. Are you curious? The enclosed webinar, recorded last week (Engage. Inspire. Empower.) provides some specific ideas and areas of concentration for today’s progressive leader around employee engagement and work style design. In case you missed it.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.