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out of curiosity

Out of Curiosity… Why Asking More Questions Leads to More Creativity and Solutions

When I was growing up, I remember that I was always curious about how things worked. “How does a controller send signals to the TV to control Mario?”, “How could people build things as big as the pyramids?”, or even something like “Why is the Great Wall of China still around after all these years?” were examples of questions I’d find myself asking.

Little did I know that when I found an interest in Leonardo Da Vinci, I’d learn that he too was a curious mind. And what I’ve come to find out since is that creatives, especially creative leaders, are curious in general.

In this post, let’s dive a little deeper into this idea that curious minds (and understanding them as a leader) lead to better results for your team and business.

Curiosity at Play

I often to think of myself as a gatekeeper when it comes to information – a natural advisor. When it comes to the social circles I find myself in, I’m usually the one that knows random pieces of information that actually help find the solution. When I look at this characteristic and how it plays a role in my life, I don’t think I can find a better example of it in play than when I was on my high school’s Quiz Bowl team.

Quiz Bowl, if you’ve never heard of it, is basically a game where two teams compete through answering trivia. The team that answers a particular question correctly first, gets the point. On a well rounded team, the members know info about all kinds of topics. And interestingly enough, it’s often suggested that players watch Jeopardy to get practice in when we’re not practicing together.

That being the case, the members of my team were all over achievers. In fact, at times, I felt a little out of place. There were your typical book worms, sure. But there was also a few players who didn’t care about grades nearly as much as they cared about art, music, or their other usual extracurricular activities.

We were all curious. We all had great imaginations (we often referred to Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Star Trek on bus rides). And I have to admit, many members of the team were pretty damn creative.


Curiosity Yields Opportunity

While I don’t remember what each member of this team went off to do after I graduated high school, I do remember that I felt at home at Purdue when I started on my engineering degree. Not only were my friends and I focused on our school work, but we were constantly having conversations where we were asking “What If?” or “How Can I?”. We were always asking questions. And later, when I got involved with various student organizations, it was because of these brainstorming sessions that we were able to come up with all kinds of tasks and question.

Truth being, to get anything done in a particular group, you had to think outside of the box. Be it finding new sensors for a robot that was being built in IEEE to finding funding opportunities for projects in Alpha Phi Omega, thinking outside of the box was the norm.

So, from my perspective, the more questions you ask, the more options you get. And because you have more options, you’ll have more answers or solutions.

Roadblocks of Curiosity

Education

If you follow this blog at all, you might know that I’m not a huge fan of the current formal education system. Main reason? It’s hugely out of date. It’s not designed to be super flexible and frankly, most students are being left behind because they’re being told what to think, not how to think.

I started realizing this in grad school when I figured out that college wasn’t for everyone. I’d often find myself asking “Why are these students even in this class?”. Sometimes because there were some who didn’t put effort in their work, but others because they simply just didn’t seem to fit. Their personal gifts were more artistic, more EQ driven, and sometimes even more “real world” friendly.

These students were forced to think that formal education was the only way to get ahead. And 10 years later, I’ve realized that these students should have had education crafted more towards them as an individual than a one size fits all solution.

That’s what formal education is and it simply doesn’t work for everyone.

Training Managers vs Leaders

Another thing I realized during this time is that the traditional business world – the corporate world –  is the only other place where it’s frowned upon to be creative. While I was teaching in OLS, we would make it a point to remind students that an MBA is typically focused more on managing processes while our department was more focused on managing people.

It’s because of this that I think the corporate world sponsors more employees to seek an MBA. They don’t necessarily want leaders, they want managers.

These are two big hurdles in today’s world that prohibits people from being more creative.

Action Steps

So, at this point you might wondering “Ok, I have a team that could possibly be a bit more creative in their work. How do I help them get outside of the box when it comes to problem solving?” Here’s a few ideas to keep in mind:

Let Creativity Flourish!

I think, the first thing we have to realize is that creative people are inherently risky. Because they’re outside of the box, there’s going to be times when they’ll cross boundaries or simply be a bit rebellious. So you have to be willing to give them some space to work in their own world and come up with ideas. When it comes to these individuals, you’ll have to be comfortable with leaving the rule book at the door.

Help Flush Out Ideas

Speaking of ideas, another thing you want to do with creative types is work with them as they’re developing new ideas. As a business owner, you have to see them as your scientists or scouts. They’ll have many hypotheses or a half baked ideas, but they might not have thoroughly tested them. Instead of waiting for the entire process to conclude, it should be part of your job as a servant leader to help them through. Not only will you be able to sniff the idea out and determine if it’s useful for not, but if it is, you can implement it in your business quicker. Of course you have to work on your own curiosity to help them out!!

Be a Servant Leader

And finally, again as a servant leader, it’s your job to not do everyone’s job all the time, but make sure that every part of the business is working smoothly.

Take a restaurant manager as an example.

It’s not their job to just sit in the back and have the other employees come to them with issues. Sure, there might be some time in doing this, but they also need to be able to check in with those who are cleaning tables, dispensing ice cream, working the drive-thru, and serving food regularly. If they wait for something to actually go wrong until they address an issue, that’s not being proactive – that’s reactive. And we know that leaders can not be reactive!!

A quote I saw this week, goes like this:

“If you look at the people in your circle and you don’t get inspired, you don’t live in a circle, you live in a cage.”

– John Maxwell

In that same instance, don’t be the one creating the cage.

learning process

5 Checkpoints to Expect In Your Learning Process

Back in March of 2011, I decided that I was going to become part of the John Maxwell Team. This was a big deal for me at the time as I felt that it was going to be a good way for me to get out of the funk of losing Mom. At this point, it had been just a couple of months and I figured “Hey, I’m not getting any younger. I better commit to growing myself as a professional so I’m not stuck where I am.”

Needless to say, getting started with JMT propelled me in the direction that would eventually lead me to a good part of the network that I have, including Brawn Lide, who was my roommate for the week long training at the end of the program.

Anyhow, I wanted to share with you guys a little bit from what I was thinking as of April 3rd of 2011 as I officially started off on this new journey. Hopefully it will do two things for you: 1.) Give you courage to spend money to invest in yourself. 2.) Don’t have expectations of being great at the beginning of any new venture or experience.


So I’m finally starting the John Maxwell Certification Program. And I gotta say, after the first week of “class”, I’m impressed. The faculty is spot on. I really feel that this is a capstone program to my OLS studies. One that will get me to the next big thing – being a certified Exec and Life coach.

However, when I first signed up for the program, I kept asking myself “why did I just spend as much as I did on something that I have plenty of info around me on?” I knew I could eventually get to where I wanted to be by just reading book upon book that were recommended to me through LTD. This has worked pretty well for me already.

Then it occurred to me. The reason that I did jump into the program because it IS a program that has it’s own curriculum. It’s not a collection of “best practices”. It’s a program where the faculty actually are with you step by step through the curriculum. There are even Q&A sessions. Even though it’s extra work that I’ll need to be doing and I’ll be grading myself based on what I get out of the program, this is basically how I worked in all my years in school. Everyone starts on the same level and ends up with the same outcome. I love that it’s a level playing field. I’m just down right excited!

Putting It Into Action

One of the things that has seemed to be a underlying generality about LTD and what this program has taught me so far is that “growth” does give you quite a bit in the end. Most of the time, however, I think that both are referring mostly to the growth we go through in the process of self discovery.

While a particular event might motivate you to do something, it’s only the process that matures you – that grows you. An event happens in a day while the process happens daily. And simply put, the person who has grown the most will attract others to him. The ones that have matured the most will have more meaningful relationships than those that haven’t, including romantic relationships and clients (if those are what you’re seeking).

So what am I talking about?

I’m just saying that if you want ANYTHING to change for you in life, it’s not going to change on it’s own. You need to put the effort and work in. You ought to keep an open mind. Learn to ask the big questions. Read the books you need to read. You need to do the reflecting. In fact, you might just see your life going in reverse if you don’t do these things.

Checkpoints in Your Learning Process

If you are wanting to improve in something, here are some key checkpoints that can apply to any learning process:

1.) “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Yes, that sounds dumb at first glance, but it’s a nice way of saying that people are ignorant about something until they actually start realizing that an alternate path exists.

2.) “I know that I need to know.”

This point comes into play when you start realizing that you need to know more about a particular subject that might help you out. If you do search for more information, make sure that the source is credible and not some anonymous source that can easily be a Joe Schmoe that hasn’t been greatly successful in their life. A lot of people put their trust in people they’ve never even met on the net vs someone they can actually get bodily communication from. Why would you do that? Are they really an expert? Just make sure you do a good “Lit Review” of the material out there on any given subject as you’re starting out. It’s better to have a consensus of 10 anonymous people on the web, two people you’ve met, and checking out wikipedia vs only asking 2 people that might have some knowledge.

3.) “I know what I don’t know.”

This stage occurs when you start realizing that there actually are people out there that have been successful with something that you want to do or been curious about using a method that you don’t know much about. This is when you start formulating your strategy for your own growth based on what these others have talked about.

4.) “I know and grow – it starts to show.”

After determining the changes you need to make and taking the advice of others who have been successful in doing something you want to do, you have put the plan into motion and small results are starting to show. This is also known as the “action yields results yields belief which in turn yields action again stage”.

5.) “I simply go because of what I know.”

At this point, the action is second nature to you. You simply do something because you know it has a better outcome then what the alternative is because you’ve seen both sides of the coin.

The more you know… the more you grow!


Action Steps

As I’ve been going down this entrepreneurial path for sometime after writing this post (already 7 years!), I have to say that the words of this post make so much more to me now than I’m thinking it back then. I understand the words on a much deeper level.

For example, the podcast. Would I have done things a bit differently if I was to relaunch the show? Sure. Would I have named it something else? Ha. Perhaps.

But it is what it is. We can’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate. It’s not fair to us or the people that we’re going to help with our work. As we move forward in our craft, we learn that it’s not necessarily about the craft, it’s about the people.

Or as Shawn Askionsie said in his book Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul, “It’s not about the chocolate, it’s about the chocolate.” Meaning his business isn’t just about making chocolate, it’s about the relationships he’s built in his direct trade based business.

I’m curious, guys. What’s some things you’ve picked up during your time as you’ve been working on your meaningful work? What are some things that you wouldn’t have known before you started working on whatever it is you’re doing? How did it help you grow as a person?