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Choose Curiosity

Updated: Mar 11

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Albert Enstein




Everything we know is there because of curiosity. Somebody asking a "what if" question and start exploring the impossible. We tend to believe that big leaps, be it in science, research, engineering, or medicine, are the product of one brilliant mind. It's more likely a challenge - caused by events or by an internal thirst for knowledge and new possibilities - that created an attitude, a different way to look at the world.

In an excellent article on HBR, The Business Case for Curiosity, Francesca Gino (2018) explains how businesses would greatly benefit from encouraging curiosity.

It's baffling that while there is a strong consensus that innovation and risk-taking are what make companies and enterprises, most leaders tend to stifle it. When the time comes to implement new ideas, fear of risk redirects our brilliant ideas and leaps of faith into the comfortable world of certainties. Maybe because "exploration often involves questioning the status quo " (The Business Case for Curiosity). Something that in itself is too scary even to contemplate.


As individuals, we have the power to foster our curiosity, using it as our lens to "reframe" the world. When we are curious, we are not driven by emotion but by our desire to know more. We remove the blinders - worry, fear, anger...- and recognise more opportunities because we can see situations from different angles.

Change is still possible, but only if we can influence our environment and alter its optic. As with any big discovery, the key is to start small with ourselves. As individuals, we have the power to foster our curiosity, using it as our lens to "reframe" the world. Ideas that can feel threatening or goals that can feel out of our reach can become possible if we approach them differently. When we are curious, we are not driven by emotion but by our desire to know more. We remove the blinders - worry, fear, anger...- and recognise more opportunities because we can see situations from different angles. What's more, by considering other narratives, we avoid the risk of forcing events into a single interpretation of reality (confirmation bias).

Curiosity has leverage over strong emotions because it activates our inquisitive mind, the more rational side. If we see things from a curiosity standpoint, we can see multiple interpretations. Free from the burden of success or failure, win or lose, we can express ourselves freely and concentrate more on learning.


One of the most powerful tools in a coaching session, reframing, helps us explore multiple alternative views, breaking the perpetuating cycle of reinforcing a single standpoint. Take, for example, my client Palmer (not his real name). He was trying to make a break in the world of fashion, and when I met him, he was frustrated that he was never given a chance to show his talent. During our first session, he was continually referring to the jobs he was offered as "shit jobs." When I dug deeper, he explained that these jobs were not well paid and he felt undermined because he knew he deserved more. By providing more details, Palmer had to activate his logical thinking to explain to himself and me the source of his anger. When we finally got to name them "small jobs', he could see opportunities. Small jobs can, in fact, grow into big jobs. Palmer, although very talented, was at the beginning of his career. He could accept that those "small jobs" were part of a learning curve that would give him the expertise for future more challenging work opportunities. There was also another positive outcome; the anger and frustration dialled down almost immediately. Freed from all those negative emotions, Palmer was able to see more clearly and constructively.

Curiosity has leverage over strong emotions because it activates our inquisitive mind, the more rational side. If we see things from a curiosity standpoint, we can see multiple interpretations. Free from the burden of success or failure, win or lose, we can express ourselves freely and concentrate more on learning.

Imagine how it could be different if (...) we were to ask more, "why?" "What if...?" How might we...?" questions. Wouldn't they spark more curiosity, willingness to learn for everyone?


A body of research demonstrates that framing work around learning goals rather than performance boosts motivation. When the focus is on exploring, experimenting, acquiring more knowledge, winning or losing becomes irrelevant. Our desire to know more allows us to explore our potential and the infinite possibilities out there because we are not constrained by performance pressure. We do better because our sense of self-worth (remember Palmer?) is not limited by the external measure of success.

We are all born curious, some more than others. Somewhere along the road, we stopped asking questions. Time is precious, and we don't want to bother people, especially if we run the risk of being judged incompetent, indecisive or unintelligent. The truth of the matter is that if we don't challenge ourselves and our environment, we can only offer a simplistic view of reality - success and failure. If, on the contrary, we are continually drawn by our desire to explore and learn more, we can add to our reality, put new ideas on a map and, like a modern explorer, contribute to a different vision of reality.



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