Do you want to be more successful? Ask questions. Curiosity is the key to success.
Management expert Professor Peter Drucker says,
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results, all the rest are costs.”Peter Drucker – Professor
If innovation is such a vital component of business success, it’s obvious that building a worthwhile career, or a business, requires a higher than usual measure of curiosity.
Why curiosity is often frowned upon
Some people believe that it’s improper to question the common beliefs and methods of their employer. They’re worried that this will be seen as a challenge to authority, so they sit quietly getting on with the job, their heads spinning with dozens of unspoken new ideas.
Some leaders are shy about asking questions, fearing that they may appear uncertain or lacking confidence. Actually, the opposite is true. Professor Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Centre says he been trying to figure out for 30 years how great leaders do their work exceptionally well.
He found they are all skilled at asking better questions. As he says,
“Only by asking the right questions can leaders achieve innovation, which is pivotal to success.”Professor Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Centre
Here are six top tips for improving your curiosity
Based on research by Hal Gregerson of MIT and Professor Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, here are some of the things you can do right away whatever your level of seniority, or if you’re a business owner
Spend more time on innovation.
If you’re a leader, at least 30 percent of your work day should be spent exploring new ideas.
Ask yourself every day how many things you’re doing at work could be done more cheaply or quicker.
Hold daily “Question Time” sessions with colleagues.
Everyone should be welcome to submit questions or ideas about the organization’s business. Have a rule that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Sometimes they give birth to good ones.
Use the power of why.
When trying to understand something more deeply, ask why again and again until the truth reveals itself. For example:
- “Why do we send this data to head office?”
- “We always do.”
- “I don’t really know to be honest.”
- “Why? The numbers are in our marketing reports.”
- “Distribution patterns perhaps.”
- “Why? What more information do they need?”
- “I think they analyse it.”
- “Why? What do they do with it?”
- “They ask for it.”
- “So, the bottom line is we spend loads of time and effort every month retrieving this data and shooting it over to head office, and we don’t know why we’re doing it. Let’s find out, shall we?”
Don’t settle for the first idea.
Don’t settle for the first idea that comes to mind. If it’s worth considering put it aside. Then, when you have four or five workable options, find out what people think. Get them to ask you why each of your ideas is worth implementing.
Explore, interact and collaborate.
If you’re a leader, practise management by walking around. Ask your teams to tell you the one thing you could do to improve the business, to make their lives more fulfilling and to give the customers a better experience.
If you’re not a leader, behave like one. Offer to help colleagues with complex tasks. Ask them questions about what they’re doing and why, and encourage them to ask you too. At the end of the day, instead of rushing out, spend half an hour looking for new ideas.
Do that for a month and you’ll have devoted ten hours of curiosity from which you and your employer can benefit.
When Eric Schmidt was CEO of Google, from 2001 to 2011, he said:
“We run this company on questions, not answers.”Eric Schmidt, formerCEO of Google