The Importance of Staying Curious

It is the number one trait I look for during every meeting.

It is the number one trait I look for during every phone conversation.

It has relevance to both your professional and personal life.

It is simple in concept and action. And to me it says everything about the person that I am interacting with.

It is curiosity.

But what does it mean to be curious?  Do you constantly ask for more information, more data? Do you seek knowledge about the person you are meeting with, before you meet them? Do you conduct research on the relevant parts of the business or industry you are currently prospecting? Do you ask why or why not?

I have been having a conversation about curiosity with work colleagues, family members and friends over the past few months. I am often surprised, and at times concerned, because I feel as if curiosity is being lost. And since I don’t know why I thought I would take the opportunity to explore the topic further.

I think we can be, and should be, more curious than ever. We have instant access to a stream of information through mobile phones, tablets, computers, etc. Within seconds we can find a new restaurant, navigate a new city, or book a vacation. A simple Google search and we will seemingly find endless answers to our questions. The Harvard Business Review refers to curiosity as being as important as intelligence. I am now starting to ask others if they look for curiosity in people they interact with in a professional and personal context.

For example, a few weeks ago a former colleague of mine, who is a recruiter, was interviewing a potential candidate for an open position at a global financial services company. During the 30 minute interview they were looking for specific traits and behaviors which included preparation, honesty, and yes…curiosity.

I asked how it went and he told me that the interview was over in less than 15 minutes.

Why?

Very simple … when he asked the candidate, “What questions do you have for me about the role?” The candidate replied ”none”.  For a recruiter, or anyone hiring for a role,  this is a significant red flag and the lack of curiosity was deeply concerning. The candidate had self-selected out of the hiring process.

When people are curious that have an innate desire and hunger to learn. They want to seek information in order to get better. It’s a ‘soft skill’ and it deserves more credence in the world today.

I am now starting to try out a few tactics at work to get a sense as to how curious people are. For example, 24-48 hours before an external meeting with a potential customer I send through an email asking if they have any specific topics they would like to cover in our meeting. This email enables me to see how curious the potential customer is. A positive response gives me an indication that the person I am meeting with is curious and looking forward to the meeting. But if I get no response, this is a clear indication that the person that I am meeting with is probably not preparing for, or curious about, our upcoming conversation. And this raises a red flag.

My hope is that we continue to remain curious because it leads to better outcomes and discussions both in a professional and personal context.

So I am “curious” to hear your responses. Are people curious? How does this manifest itself in the workplace?