Financial leaders and executives talk a lot about return on investment or ROI. The metric estimates the expected future net benefit gained by expending resources on a transaction. Types of transactions include; buying equipment, buying a business, initiating an efficiency program or expanding a marketing campaign. These may be good uses of funds and all may provide positive benefit. However, there is one type of investment that can cost very little and return a great deal and that is an investment in curiosity.
Leaders are challenged every day by critical decision-making, long term planning, unexpected events and the need to move their organizations forward. These challenges are constant and are constantly changing, so leaders need to work hard just to keep up. To stay ahead, leaders must approach issues with an innovation mindset which is a powerful way to resolve issues using curiosity.
For example, cyber issues are serious concerns for today’s business leaders, however, many leaders know very little about the cyber threat and even less about how to prepare or respond. Some leaders reacted early on when the issue was just surfacing and have already taken the initiative to learn about cyber threats. These leaders were curious about this high-risk area and started asking questions, or taking courses or talking to experts. They are taking that knowledge and finding innovative, proactive ways to manage the risk. They invested in curiosity and are ahead of the learning curve.
Applying that thought process to any area of risk or opportunity in an organization is a solid foundation for long term viability. Identify new threats and opportunities via a perspective of curiosity. Don’t look at the learning as an exercise, but as an experience. Instill a sense of inquisitiveness in your organization, expect team members to challenge the status quo and to look for new solutions. Ask the question; “Is curiosity a part of our culture?”
Using this idea in your own development can generate great returns as it can increase your perceived value to an employer. In many organizations, employees who are active learners, who are interested in expanding their knowledge base and work scope are highly valued. They are more likely to be recognized as high potential individuals for promotion.
Additional examples of the returns from investing in curiosity include; increased mental acuity, broadened perspective and a genuine appreciation of diversity. Curiosity can result in energized creativity, the ability to embrace new concepts and innovations, better honed problem solving skills and improved access to knowledge and knowledgeable people. Who wouldn’t want all of that great stuff?
How To Invest In Curiosity
- Take time to interact with peers, staff and leaders. Gain a clear understanding of the organization’s mission and how policies and procedures either aid or encumber the mission across the organization
- Get to know people at all levels in your organization. Discuss their views on the organization and listen to their concerns or ideas.
- Find a mentor and proactively mentor others. This is a great way to learn about other perspectives and to gain and pass along valuable knowledge and expertise
- Be active in your organization’s industry and your profession. Attend trade conferences, professional association events, webinars and other educational forums for industry personnel, as well as those in your profession (finance, operations, HR, IT, etc.).
- Volunteer in professional organizations in leadership roles or as educators.
- Proactively learn about technological innovations that are or may soon impact your organization
- Look for innovative topics related to your job or your organization on social media.
- Don’t be afraid to bring knowledge into your organization via consultants or experts who can share best practices and trends
- Encouraging curiosity in others by leading by example. Integrating learning expectations into performance appraisal processes
- Invest time to read a wide variety of publications, such as; books, magazines, articles on social media, documentaries, podcasts, etc. Try to get outside your comfort zone by reading information from different sources with different perspectives or with a global or innovative focus. Look for topics that challenge your presumptions.
- Write and publish articles about your experiences, perspectives or expertise. Social media allows for easy publication and immediate feedback.
- Network with peers from your industry or profession or with interesting folks found via social media. Comment on forums to voice your opinions and listen for other viewpoints.
- Develop hobbies to foster growth, learning and personal networking
- Accelerate accomplishing items on your “Bucket List” – integrating life changing experiences earlier is better. Go even further by sharing the knowledge and insights you gained through your experiences
- Volunteer in a local NFP organization – helping others, gaining perspective and life learning
- Engage in polite discourse on issues you care about with friends, neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances. Monitor yourself to make sure you are talking less than half the time!
- Get to know your neighbors and listen to their stories, experiences, trials and tribulations. Shop at local or “mom and pop” stores from time to time and chat with the owners about their experiences.
- Invest in slowing down: Unplug – get away from the cell phone, the laptop, the internet and the rest for a while each day. Ponder the difference between a face to face chat and a text exchange
- Explore of the arts, museums and other cultural events to feed your soul and reinvigorate your spirit
- Invest in your mind by going back to school to learn new subjects, or even better, go back to teach (or both)
The news is littered with stories of companies in distress or closed because they were not prepared for change in their industry. There are many competent folks who cannot find good jobs because technology or some other innovation made their jobs redundant. For those reasons alone, investing in curiosity is worthwhile. You can avoid obsolescence with these investments and can also greatly increase your personal value, at work or at home. Continual learning pays continual benefits by making you a more learned, more flexible and approachable person with a broad perspective and, mostly likely, a very open mind. Investing in curiosity can make you a better family member, a better business person, a better leader and perhaps a better person.
Oh, and by the way, if you have read this article, congratulations! You have invested in your curiosity. Keep it up.
Learning is a shared experience, so please share your thoughts on this topic in the comments section. Thanks! –mike