When it comes to business, one of the core components of my personal philosophy is to always lead with curiosity. In fact, I’m surprised that curiosity isn’t listed more often as a business necessity. The spirit of inquiry innate to a curious mind can serve you professionally and personally; it informs both ambition and innovation.
Curiosity is the strong desire to learn or know something. Too often, the desire to learn is overpowered by the desire to be or appear correct. For example, you may find leaders–from managers to CEOs–that exude confidence at the expense of curiosity. But in reality, it’s not a zero sum game. I would go as far as to say that if you aren’t constantly curious, you have less of a reason to be confident.
Here are five reasons that leading with curiosity in business is likely to serve you well.
Curiosity is as important as intelligence
We all know that IQ, though not the holy grail for success, is generally important. But it takes more than intelligence to be successful—EQ (emotional quotient) is another important factor, as is CQ, the curiosity quotient. People with high CQ are inquisitive, tolerant of ambiguity, and embody nuanced and sophisticated thinking needed to operate and rise in a very complex world. Importantly, curiosity often leads to more of an intellectual investment.
Someone with a high IQ, without curiosity, is unlikely to reach their potential in attaining new knowledge. Perhaps Albert Einstein says it best in his famous quote: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Curiosity is a state, not a trait — so anyone can get there
While IQ is not necessarily coachable, curiosity can be developed and teased out with time. Some may be born more curious than others, sure. But according to Ian Leslie, author of the book Curious, curiosity is really “more of a state than a trait.” Given the right circumstances, anybody can be curious; people are curious about different things to different extents, and their curiosity may grow as their exposure does.
In business, you may want to keep your feelers out for what makes you curious. Following that organic curiosity can lead to big gains. In your daily life, the same is true.
Curious people do great in the C-Suite
Many people in the C-suite are beginning to give curiousity it’s due as an attribute necessary during turbulent times. In today’s age, there is a lot of uncertainty—it might seem unintuitive for leaders to match it with more uncertainty, but the logic is sound: asking questions as a leader creates a top-down culture of curiosity, in which every member is seeking new knowledge and moving the company forward.
According to McCormick & Company CEO Alan D. Wilson, leaders who “are always expanding their perspective and what they know—and have that natural curiosity—are the people that are going to be successful.”
Curiosity is at the heart of innovation
Innovation is increasingly necessary in all facets business, as creativity is needed more than ever to adapt companies to changes in the workforce. This means identifying problems and creating solutions that make big differences and eliminate key issues.
Most major inventions have curiosity at their heart. Simply put, curious people solve problems. This is corroborated by University of Oregon State research, which found that job candidates that demonstrated strong curiosity tended to be better at solving complex problems creatively. As jobs are increasingly automated, candidates that embody a an eagerness to make creative changes through earnest inquiry will be the most successful.
Curiosity vanquishes the stubborn partisan
Lastly, I have found that people get very worked up—angry, even—over my position or your position about anything from politics to management style. This kind of stubbornness makes no sense to me. Because I’m naturally curious, there’s no position someone can take that would offend me. Instead, I’m curious about how and why they think differently from the way I do.
We all have a lot to learn from one another, and from the world. Even, and perhaps, especially those in in leadership positions would do well to keep this in mind.