Michael Dell, the Chief Executive of Dell, Inc., is famous for saying that curiosity for leaders is a critical attribute to succeed in our disruptive world.
He probably heard that curiosity is the cognitive process that acts as a precursor to motivation. Without curiosity, there’s little drive to explore, learn new things, or seek new relationships. But this is exactly what an agile leader needs today!
Curiosity is rarely an issue for kids, who love to try new things and can’t stop imagining new adventures. But as adults, how can you uncover your creative genius and nurture an inquisitive spirit?
It could be far more accessible than you think! Discover the unexpected benefits of curiosity for leaders (according to neuroscience).
The neuroscience of curiosity
Curiosity is one of the oldest cognitive pathways. Which means 1. it is well-ingrained in our brains, and 2. it works well.
Neuroscience tells us that curiosity and extrinsic motivation recruit the same brain area. They’re both influenced by the rewards process; the dopamine response that makes us feel good when we get something we desire, triggering the need to do/get more of it.
Curiosity arises from connecting past experiences to your current knowledge. And when you get a match – which is to understand something – your brain rewards you with dopamine.
To lead and motivate teams through trust demands at lot of energy. The more curiosity your trigger, the more motivation you receive. Quite a strong benefit of curiosity for leaders!
Curiosity for leaders: a driver for learning
If getting a positive feeling when engaging in curiosity makes sense, there’s another astonishing discovery I want to share with you.
Your hippocampus is involved in the curiosity and rewards system.
(Ha. Why does your hippocampus matter?)
Hippocampus is the brain area responsible for focus, helping you absorb information. Without curiosity, we wouldn’t seek new information. A study from the University of California has even shown that a curious state can enhance information-seeking for nearly 24h!
Imagine you could augment the way you learn just by bringing more curiosity in your routine. How?
Go about your usual activities but get curiosity to work for you. Be creative with your commuting routes. Pick up that task you usually discard because “it’s not really for you”. Reach out to a colleague and ask about her job.
Curiosity for leaders: a leadership booster
Curious people ask “why” constantly.
The best problem-solvers are those who can move away from what is well-understood and listen to different points of view. A curious mind learns about people, connects better with others and inspires innovative thinking.
Another aspect of curiosity for leaders is connected to empathy. Curious people tend to express more empathy because they prefer asking questions instead of reacting by stating their truth. By doing so, they create the right conditions for a constructive discussion. This fosters collaboration and helps everyone make impactful decisions.
So how can you promote curiosity for others and yourself? Start with being accessible for questions. Ask questions yourself. Can you think ‘Pareto’ and let others do 80% of the talking? Can you be vulnerable enough to show that you don’t know everything, and set up “curiosity conversations” to gather some insights?
Curiosity for leaders: an asset for team motivation
Neuroscience tells us curiosity strengthens motivation. And if there’s one thing you need in a successful team, it’s an unshakeable sense of motivation.
Involve your team in activities where curiosity is needed. Set up a design-thinking workshop to think differently about the way you resolve problems. Use mind-mapping to generate ideas beyond the ordinary. And don’t forget that playing is important for leaders, too!
The best part of engaging in curiosity for leaders is role-modelling a sense of adventure, where ideas can be expressed and tested.
Some scientists have reported that curiosity is “as important as intelligence”. Curiosity for leaders is not just a matter of style. It’s a way to elevate your leadership game.
Our world demands that leaders completely reinvent their industries from the get-go. When you constantly need to seek new ways to capture information and transform the existing, cultivating a curious mind is something you should role model to embrace disruption. The result? You make innovative change happen.
How do you nurture your own curiosity? Leave a comment below and share with the community.