At the end of each school day, I’d head out to play on a rockslide near our house in Wyoming. I created an imaginary town with stores, houses, and businesses. I built a miniature Fort Laramie, complete with a jail for the bad guys I locked up. My brother ended up there once.
Nearby irrigation ditches provided great shelter from the onslaught of marauding Indians. In the winter I’d help my parents feed hay to the cattle, but I’d always find time to explore my surroundings. In the summer months I learned that dry cow pies make excellent frisbees.
When we role-play, we imagine ourselves in different situations. One week, I would be a veterinarian and patch up all sorts of ills that befall animals on a ranch. Or a John Wayne character who packed a gun and brought justice to the wild west. I always imagined myself to be someone whom I aspired to become like when I grew up. At that age, my hero was someone very real to me. My imagination gave me permission to walk in the shoes of my hero, if only for a few moments.
Research tells us that children who have a good imagination grow up to be more creative as adults. Curiosity and imagination are two sides of the same coin. Imaginative and curious people also tend to be more innovative in business and life as well.
Innovation, curiosity, and imagination are the secret brew that can take your career to the next level. These traits can also accelerate a company’s profits and growth beyond its competitors. In a recent study, innovation was ranked a long-term challenge for driving business growth. It is a key talent needed at all levels of leadership, starting with the CEO.
Curiosity is a thirst for knowledge and the need to hunt for answers to these questions: “What is this?” and “How does it work?” It’s an important mental exercise because it requires a mindset that helps people move forward and do new things that starts them on the path to new discoveries.
Curiosity is critical to your success because it’s the strong desire to learn without constraint. It’s the driving force behind new discoveries in all fields, not just technology and science.
Here are 4 reasons why curiosity is critical to your success:
1. There Is Link Between Intelligence, Emotion, and Curiosity
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, identifies three qualities that are essential if we are to successfully manage the complexity of modern life. The first two are 1) intellectual acuity and 2) emotional intelligence.
Complex environments are dense with information, which requires more brainpower or deliberate thinking. Our IQ is a measure of that brainpower, just like megabytes are a measure of a computer’s capacity. High IQ levels enable people to identify and solve more problems. Intelligence is a strong predictor of performance on complex tasks. Studies now show, however, that using our smarts is not enough to ensure success.
Soft, interpersonal skills are also essential if we want buy-in from others. Emotional intelligence is an important component of mental toughness because we need to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for success.
People who are socially savvy are better equipped to navigate organizational politics and advance their careers. Most employers look to people with good emotional intelligence and soft skills when it comes to management and leadership positions.
Curiosity is the third quality that Dr. Chamorrro-Premuzic believes is as important as intellect and emotional savvy. It’s critical to your success because it signals a hungry mind. If you’re inquisitive, you’re open to new experiences. You can generate more original ideas and produce simple solutions to complex problems. Chamorro-Premuzic’s initial studies suggest that curious people are more tolerant of ambiguity.
TIP: These same studies also indicate that curious people have raw intellectual horsepower. It’s possible to increase your intelligence by cultivating the other two qualities: curiosity and social savviness. Successful people know the three travel together.
2. Curiosity Makes You A More Interesting Person
Curiosity is critical to your success because when you are curious, something interesting happens—you come across as more interesting and more intelligent. Others will interpret your curiosity as intelligence.
Curious people have active minds. The mind is like a muscle that becomes stronger through continual exercise, so curiosity is a mental exercise that makes our minds stronger. Studies show that people are better at learning information when they are curious about the topic. In his 1994 paper, The Psychology of Curiosity, George Loewenstein found that curiosity requires some amount of initial knowledge. His research determined that we are not curious about those things we know absolutely nothing about.
This changes, however, when we start to learn even a little bit about a topic or subject; our curiosity is piqued and we want to learn more. It turns out that the more we know, the more we want to know.
TIP: Curiosity is a choice you make to look deeper into the events and people around you. Research shows that when you are curious, the limbic reward system of the brain is active. This is why it is important that teachers spark curiosity in the classroom and use curiosity as a teaching method.
3. Curiosity Sends The Right Message
As a leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner, the need to send the right message is constant. It’s important to convey the message that you prefer to ask the right questions rather than pretend to know all the answers. Too often, this becomes flip-flopped when the emphasis is to know all the answers—a sure path to stagnation.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 65% of workplace employees surveyed felt unable to ask questions at work. Even more ironic, while 84% indicated that their employers encouraged curiosity, 60% said they also encountered barriers to it at work.
Curiosity is important to every business owner, entrepreneur, and leader. If it wasn’t, new ventures would have no appeal. When we ask questions and maintain a strong sense of curiosity, we see a person for what they truly are, and a company or market trend for what it truly is.
TIP: You model curiosity for those around you when you show a willingness to ask questions and admit you don’t always know the answer.
Collect wisdom where you find it. In your circle, have:
- One person older than you who is where you want to be in the future
- A peer who possesses strengths and accomplishments that you don’t
- Someone younger than you who is further along than you were at that age
Remember, curiosity can wane over time so use the above tips to stay curious and maintain your competitive edge.
4. Curious People Have Better Social Relationships
Motivational speaker Anthony Robbins once said that “the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your relationships.” We all value curiosity in our friendships. If people are curious about your life, they show empathy, offer advice, and truly care about your happiness.
A study at the University of Buffalo concluded that the degree to which people are curious influences their personal growth and the level of intimacy that develops when they meet someone new. The study also stated that the degree to which people are curious determines how deep a connection is developed when they encounter someone new.
TIP: When you are curious about your life, you’ll find a greater sense of meaning for yourself as well as life satisfaction. Why? The life of a curious person is far from boring. There are always new ideas and new worlds to explore, which open up possibilities that are not normally visible.