Leadership skills. Tuning your Curiosity Quotient.
Updated: Sep 15
Today, there is a rising openly expressed value for Emotional Intelligence and Curiosity in business management. It is not surprising as the effects of digital technology, (specifically) artificial intelligence and machine learning are now permanently threaded through the lives of the second digital native generation (millennials and GenZ).
So, why is it important to pay attention to this shift from primary value on high intellect, towards increased recognition of emotional intelligence and curiosity? Because today the foundation of most corporations, learning institutions, and social infrastructures are optimized to primarily reward high IQ- answering questions correctly.
The first scientific efforts to measure our intelligence began in the late 1800's and the first IQ (intelligence quotient) was created in 1904. The idea? If you had high intellectual ability at knowing the right answer, you would be more successful in life. It took 60 years for scientists to figure out that there was something more than just book smarts that was important. Measuring a person's Emotional Intelligence has been in re-discovery since the 1960s, and in 2007, author and journalist, Thomas Friedman introduced the idea that a Curiosity Quotient when combined with passion, outweighed intelligence.
Computer intelligence is increasingly reducing our need to do linear problem solving (put down that smart phone!) and now relational problem solving ("Alexa, where are my keys?"), the ability to synthesize information and deliver imaginative solutions, aka creative thinking will become more valuable. Mark Cuban, in a recent interview (yes, the Shark Tank guy), called creative thinking the most valuable career skill to have in the next decade.
Over time, I've observed that individuals with high curiosity and emotional intelligence are also some of the most innovative problem-solvers and high impact contributors to the success of a business. When guiding new managers, the first practice we always work on, is learning to be more curious about the employees they're responsible for leading.
How do you increase your curiosity? How do you increase your desire to know more?
When we see or hear something that is counter to our existing understanding, our emotional response is often to protect our truth through rationality. ("We just need to get this done, therefore let's stop asking questions!")
As an added challenge, I was taught that it was rude to ask personal questions. And so, I have both a rational and emotional barrier to break down. However, I've discovered the benefits of asking for more information (and receiving information with an open mind). Even at the risk of proving myself wrong, being curious has paid off more times then not.
As a caveat, I have a teen who sometimes asks questions because it is "easier to ask than to figure it out". If you're out of high school, and still are requiring exact directions before you are able to start a project, I recommend a book, "Millennials & Management" by Lee Caraher. Even if you're not a millennial, it gives some proactive ways to become a more valued employee by practicing proactive outreach rather then expecting your boss to deliver detailed and explicit instructions for every request.
If you are already practicing proactive project management, I'm recommending an "and" adjustment to the way you work. In any situation that you responsible for- but that impacts others, seek out more viewpoints, perspectives, and knowledge. Don't assume.
For this topic, I don't have 3 quick tips. And I personally have to work at building curiosity into every part of my life, everyday. But when I do let my "tell me more" bubble rise to the top, I am consistently rewarded with greater understanding and connection. Along with Mark Cuban, a number of other business leaders and analysts including Fortune, HBR, McKinsey, Deloitte, have published recent articles on curiosity, emotional intelligence, and creative thinking as consistently found attributes in true leaders.
Ultimately, by focusing more on understanding and less on being right, we have the added benefit of reducing anxiety by acknowledging that there is always a, "yes, and".