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How Curiosity Can Be the Secret Weapon of Your Success

One of the most powerful ways to increase your value is to get better at your job.

As you become a super star, you become more valuable to the company you work for now.

You also become more valuable to the marketplace in the future. Because you will have a better story to tell.

You will have a narrative that is deeper, more complete, and more compelling than everyone else in your position.

What’s more, you will be much happier living this narrative than coasting as a mediocre employee.

The problem, of course, is that much of your success in your current job is in the hands of others.

Your boss, your coworkers, and even folks all the way up to the tippy top leadership of the company can all hold you back in innumerable ways.

They can mess up priorities. They can block funding. They can play all sorts of political games.

And if that weren’t enough, you might also be mixed in with colleagues that are uninspired, burnt out, or even to some degree incompetent.

It’s truly unfortunate that your success can be limited by so many others.

But is it really?

Are all of these obstacles insurmountable?

Is there no other path to success for you?

I believe that there is.

Because, once you break things down and take a good hard look at what might actually be possible, most of these obstacles are nothing more than convenient excuses.

The truth is that if you are determined to succeed, you will find a way.

I think one of the best and most obvious—though often overlooked—-ways you can carve a path to success is right in front of you every day.

That way is simply to be curious.

Think about it.

If you can start to ponder more often just exactly how all this stuff happening around you fits together, you will start to learn tremendous amounts of valuable information and insights.

You will begin to see the bigger picture. You will begin to see more nuance in the details. You will begin to connect more dots.

And those dots are going to lead you toward success.

At each step of the way, as you learn more, you will develop more insights. You will also get better at observing, learning, and analyzing.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about all of this is that you don’t need anybody’s permission. You don’t even need more time.

All you need to do is to start using idle brain cycles for this type of observation and contemplation while you work.

With this one simple move, you can shift your inner dialogue to a more productive mode instantly.

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
― Zig Ziglar

Why curiosity matters so much in the workplace

The best performers at work are learners. They ask the big questions. They want to know the details too.

Their ability to grasp priorities and perspectives, to ponder possibilities, and to find creative solutions leads directly to better results.

This is why employers need curious workers.

Today’s workplace is increasingly complex. It is demanding in new ways.

This is why, nearly five years ago now, Harvard Business Review declared that curiosity as important as intelligence.

Intelligence is important, of course. But, as you probably already agree, it is limited on its own.

Lots of intelligence without the ability to work well with others won’t get you very far. That’s why emotional intelligence is so crucial.

Your awareness and ability to manage your own emotions as well as those of others is a big factor in how effective you can be as an employee.

So is curiosity.

Because workers who are more tolerant of ambiguity and more willing to make intellectual investments are stronger contributors. They are more likely to creatively solve problems.

They make fewer decision-making errors, are more innovative, and help foster more open communication and better group performance.

Great companies want more curious people on the team. Particularly for the most important jobs.

How to be more curious at work

What this all comes down to is asking a lot of questions. As you ponder the who, what, where, why, and how of things big and small, you will make many discoveries.

You can apply this to your own day:

  • What is the most important task I have today?
  • Why is that the most important task?
  • Who will be unhappy if this doesn’t get done?
  • Where do I need to go the extra mile on this task?
  • How can I accomplish this faster/more effectively/more efficiently?

You can apply this to your team work:

  • Who needs help and how can I help them?
  • What is causing these team meetings to go off track?
  • Where do we do a really great job as a team?
  • Why is person x assigned / not assigned to this the team?
  • How can we improve our process for making decisions?

You can apply this to your interactions with your boss:

  • Why does she always seem to avoid topic x?
  • Where does she get her information?
  • Who influences her decision making?
  • How does she get customer feedback?
  • What is the most important thing to her?

You can apply this to big picture thinking at your organization:

  • Where do we fit in the marketplace?
  • Who buys our mid-range products?
  • Where could we expand?
  • How do our competitors view us?
  • What suppliers are most important to our success?

The point is to ponder. And to let that pondering lead you to asking more questions. To searching for answers. To doing the research to get you those answers.

Then, to let those answers lead to more questions.

As you work through all of this, you will have a lot of jumping off points for researching your industry, sparking conversations with colleagues, and seeking mentorship from your boss and others.

You will begin to build a more complete view of your world of work, how you fit in it, how others fit in it, and what can be done to make improvements.

You will find a lot of problems. And also a lot of opportunities.

Many of those opportunities will lead to ways you can help contribute more and also to grow professionally.

Curiosity leads to success

Curious people invest in themselves. They don’t just ponder, they take action.

Questions are raised and then they go out and seek the answers. They read books, talk to people, and scour the internet to find answers.

Along the way, they uncover lots of ideas, they gather lots of perspectives, and they process lots of information.

All of that makes you a more valuable employee because all of that makes you better at your job. Because you will have a clearer understanding of the big picture, the details, and how everything fits together.

More importantly, you will be doing lots of critical thinking. And that’s what’s needed today more than ever.

We all have too much to do and not enough resources. Cultivating your curiosity, and then satisfying it over and over again will lead to better critical thinking which will lead to better judgement and decision making.

That’s what can make you a superstar. And you can start right now.

All you have to do is ask… and keep asking!