“Our worldwide levels of curiosity are at an all-time low. Attention spans are shrinking. We look more at our screens than at each other . . . ”

By Steve Moran

I have written about curiosity before . . . at least I think I have. There is one thing, more than anything else, that makes me successful as a blogger and that is curiosity. I believe it is the single most important gift I got from my father, who at age 88, is as curious as he was when he was 48 (or maybe more curious).

While we were on vacation a few weeks ago at a house in Sunriver, Oregon, I looked out the upstairs window to see him taking a very close look at a pine or fir tree in the front yard. I would not even begin to give you a list of things he is curious about because it is almost everything. I am the same way. Back in the old days, when there still were multivolume encyclopedias, I could spend hours just randomly opening them and reading.

Is It Important?

The short answer is yes. Curiosity is the key to creativity and problem solving. What got me started on this blog post was an article titled Leadership Caffeine—Curiosity and the Leader that Dan Hutson, the chief strategy officer for Human Good, posted on Facebook a week or two ago.  

This quote that Dan included in the article really hit home for me:

“Our worldwide levels of curiosity are at an all-time low. Attention spans are shrinking. We look more at our screens than at each other. We accept too much at face value. We’re not pursuing answers beyond the first entry that comes up in a search.”

Without curiosity we end up believing there are no alternatives to problems or, perhaps more accurately, we believe there are limited solutions.   

Four Questions

The article suggests three questions leaders need to be asking and I have added a forth:

  1. Why? — This question seems so obvious but it is what forces a second look, a deeper look. It is a question that should be used in problem solving and when looking why we do things the way we do them.

  2. How might? — This is really a way of saying maybe there are some new, better solutions we have not explored.   

  3. What if? — This helps you look at all of the possibilities and what the outcomes might look like. I was recently part of a CEO Round Table on Human Capital and the consensus was that we still had work to do. We started with a list of possible nexts steps, then followed with, what might the result of that look like? Our version of “What if?”

  4. What is your goal? — Frequently I will get in conversations about an idea to do something or stop doing something. I try early on to get to what they want the end result to be and I am often amazed that this has not really been thought out. It is another version of “begin with the end in mind.”

How curious are you? How open to curiosity is your organization?