A Daily Dispatch from the Front Lines of Leadership.


Developing the Superpower of Curiosity

If a leadership superpower does exist, it must be curiosity. 

Many of the most successful leaders and entrepreneurs point to their seemingly innate curiosity as the basis for their success. If curiosity is indeed the wonder drug of insight, learning, and relationships, the question becomes how to enhance it. Developing the superpower of curiosity should be on top of every leader’s list. The question is, how? 

Curiosity has a host of cousins, such as the need for cognition, novelty seeking, sensation seeking, and the need for exploration. Of the big five factors of personality, the trait of Openness to Experience is most connected to curiosity. This factor emphasizes imagination and eagerness to learn new things. Those high on Openness tend to have a broad range of interests and enjoy new experiences. Makes sense. But it also works the other way around.

When people engage in novel experiences, they enhance their natural curiosity to seek out more. Listening to new kinds of music, traveling to places one has never been to, discovering new restaurants or local attractions, experimenting with new foods and tastes, and walking through interesting landscapes and parks are all examples of experiences that strengthen curiosity.

But not all experiences are created equal when it comes to boosting curiosity. In addition to novel experiences, open-ended learning experiences are even more powerful for developing an inquisitive mind. These experiences marry an enjoyable activity with learning about a complex subject. Curiosity is baked into the experience when people use them to learn about something else. 

Consider this small list as you work to create some of your own: modeling the night sky to learn astronomy, creating ice cream to learn physics, reenacting a battlefield to learn military strategy, grafting roots onto a new plant to learn botany, taking a yoga class to learn the anatomy of muscles and tendons. 

Seeking novel and open-ended learning experiences is one way to light the fire of curiosity. In the words of the imaginative Walt Disney, “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” The funny thing is, finding interesting things to do makes you more curious, as well.   

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