Foster the Spark

When I'm curious, I slow down and look around. I ask why we are doing this. If my team isn't doing the same thing, I better look in the mirror.

If your people are not curious, what example have you set?

An earlier draft of this post focused on being creative vs. curious. The more I thought about it — and me — the more I felt, the more appropriate path for this article was curious.

Don't get me wrong. I wish I had the creative talent that comes so quickly to many. What I do have, however, is curiosity.

When I'm curious, I slow down and look around. I ask why we are doing this. Why are we not doing that?  How can I ensure that the team's worst day was yesterday and chart a path, so tomorrow is better than today?

If you or your team come in and all they can muster is showing up, you need help. That is going to lead to something other than long-term success. However, if you can get a couple of people curious. If you can hold onto the few seeking new ideas and identifying new projects, products, and services, there might be a path to the promised land.

The Reality

Francesca Gino at HBR has this tidbit to consider:

In a survey I conducted of more than 3,000 employees from a wide range of firms and industries, only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

70% can't ask questions at work?  What?

I've long believed that there is tremendous competition to be average. If close to 3 out of 4 are not curious at work and 70% can't ask questions — I'll put my team against yours any day.

What Do I Do?

Do I have this all figured out?  HA!  Are you crazy? I am learning just like you! Here is what I've been working on.

Encourage questions:

I welcome your questions. I gave up any pretense that I was the most brilliant dude at the table. I ask a ton of questions and do my best to encourage the team to do the same.

Answers are relatively easy to come by. Anyone who has worked the help desk knows that half the time, the solution is one google search away. It is the formation of a question — a good question — where things start to happen.

Model curiosity yourself:

I set the tone. The team will likely follow suit when I'm curious and enthusiastic about new ideas and technologies. Only sometimes. Sometimes I get the "OMG, get out of here!!" If I'm lucky, a seed was planted even if they won't admit it immediately.

I learned long ago that all eyes are on me. When I stumble or take the easy way out, it is noticed even if not commented upon. "Well, Luke sure is excited about this, so let's see what all the fuss is about."

Foster a culture of experimentation:

I encourage the team to try out new ideas and take risks. Too many Admins and Engineers are afraid of their own shadow.  Don't bring the tenant down or lock out the IT Ops team. Short of that, sometimes you must break it to learn something.

I always know the 'education school bell' has rung when I get the call:

So about that "you can't learn unless you break it thing..."


What about You?

That is my current thinking. What about you?  I'd love to hear what you do.