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Coach’s Corner: Curiosity is Courageous

Embrace differences. Tell it like it is. Build bridges not silos. Keep the promise. Stay Curious.

These are the 5 behaviours that describe how we run in SAP. While each one is important, I believe that curiosity is the foundation for all.

To Stay Curious means being willing to see change as a chance, to innovate without fear of failure, and to be humble and never stop learning because ideas come from everywhere.

Curiosity is the urge you feel to know more about something. In her recent article Why Curiosity Matter, for the Harvard Business Review, Francesca Gino states:

The impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities is a basic human attribute.

Great news! We all are capable of being curious. Further, Francesca asserts that

when our curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more creative solutions.

In other words, curiosity is how we grow individually and collectively.

Ironically, curiosity can be a rare or novel thing within an organization due to cultural norms and leadership. Which is why it is so important that we not only have our Stay Curious behaviour, but that we purposefully practice curiosity every day. Practicing curiosity can be especially challenging due its very nature.

Within her latest book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown sites author Ian Leslie who describes curiosity this way:

It doesn’t like rules, or at least, it assumes that all rules are provisional, subject to the laceration of a smart question nobody has yet thought to ask. It disdains the approved pathways, preferring diversions, unplanned excursions, impulsive left turns. In short, curiosity is deviant.

Imagine purposefully being ‘deviant’ as an employee! No wonder Brené speaks of curiosity as an act of vulnerability and courage. So, even though we all have curiosity and the act of being curious makes us better, the challenge is whether we have the courage to be curious.

Again, Brené turns to Ian for a vision of curiosity that might help bolster our courage:

Curiosity says: no worries. I love a wild ride. I’m up for wherever this goes. And I’m in for however long it takes to get to the heart of the problem. I don’t have to know the answers or say the right thing. I just have to keep listening and                         keep questioning.

Ian’s vision resonates with me deeply, because I struggle with both needing to know the answers and needing to say the right thing (or be the right way). This is where my coaching practice is serving me well. As a coach, I need to embody everything that curiosity says in order to serve my clients well. As part of my ritual before each coaching session, I remind myself that I don’t need to know anything, I don’t need to come up with the perfect question, I just need to be curious. In fact, I just need to be curiosity.

I also appreciate how Ian’s vision encompasses each of our other How We Run Behaviours:

  • ‘I’m up for wherever this goes’ = Embrace differences
  • ‘I don’t have to know the answers or say the right thing” = Tell it like it is
  • ‘Keep listening and keep questioning’ = Build bridges, not silos
  • ‘I’m in for however long it takes to get to the heart of the problem’ = Keep the promise

Have the courage to be curious – it will lead to growth for yourself and others.

  • When have you acted courageously by consciously choosing to be curious?
  • What is something that has piqued your curiosity that you could ask a friend or colleague about today?

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

Hi, I’m Vicki Catterall, a Global Program Leader and Certified Coach at SAP. Want to know more about me? Get curious!

2 Comments
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  • Excellent post Vicki Catterall! Thank you for sharing!

    Curiosity is a truly an important part of ourselves that we can activate – I believe it is a choice we can make (to be curious or not). When we can be curious, this opens up much more possibilities to learn and understand. This in turn bolsters our ability to be more empathetic and compassionate.

    There are a lot of research and techniques for developing a “growth mindset” (as opposed to “fixed mindset”) where curiosity is one of the key differentiations. Personally, I like to go back a bit further and understand what is preventing someone to be curious. If courage is needed to be curious, what do we fear? How do these fears hold us back from accepting feedback, and learning about ourselves (or in the case of feedback, about how others see us)?

    Curiosity needs to be genuine. We should have an urge to know, rather than ask a question because we think its expected or to lead someone to a targeted outcome. I’ve learned first-hand that one of the biggest blockers we have for curiosity is ego. Ego (and pride, depending on culture) holds us back from being the best that we can be. I’m reading  “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday, whose experiences seem to be confirming the connections between learning, curiosity, mindset, fears, ego and our lifelong pursuit to be come better human beings.

    I’m genuinely curious, what book are you reading now, and what do you expect to get from it?

    • Thank you, Jason!

      You absolutely right – curiosity needs to be genuine. For it to be genuine, we need to recognize what fear or old belief is preventing us from expressing curiosity naturally. I’ve also learned that ego is a big blocker – not wanting to appear foolish by asking what might be perceived as a simple or naive question. This is part of my journey, which will now include reading Ego is the Enemy (thank you for the book recommendation).

      Right now, I am reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK” by Mark Manson, whose experiences confirm that we are inundated with messages about what we should give a f*ck about and what we need to do is become very, very clear on what we really do give a f*ck about and why. I’m learning about boundaries and healthy relationships. Mark’s writing will be the catalyst for my next blog!