Curiosity is Your Best Weapon

Funny, I haven’t touched this blog in nine months, and I’ve returned to write about (almost) the same thing I wrote about last time; curiosity.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing 8+ years of journals I’ve kept at IDEO, trying to figure out some of the things I’ve learned over the years. (BTW, first learning is that I need to write more.) There’s a lot in those journals for me. It’s most of my thirties. It’s having two kids. It's traveling 6 continents. It’s stepping into some really hard problems with really smart people.

I’m hoping to blog about it more in the coming weeks to make sense of it all. I’m pretty amazed at how much the topic of curiosity keeps showing up. It’s a transformative attitude. The minute you’re heading down a dark path, it seems if you can flip the curiosity switch you kind of move from losing to learning. This quote stood out...

"May your frustration make your curious"

One of my mentors had found me at a moment where I was working with a team and things had not gone as planned. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I was pissed because the team wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Someone wasn’t doing their job. Someone wasn’t being collaborative. It was one of those moments where everyone else was the problem and if I could just figure out how to fix it, we could make progress. It was in this moment I had lost my way.

If only I could have taken off my frustrated glasses and put on a set of curious glasses, I could have found empathy for the people I was working with. I could try to see their world as they see it. When you’re wearing curious glasses you’re just trying to learn, you can reason and judge later, and creating that space for perspective is really powerful. In these moments you see new perspectives and realize often it’s you, not them that have misunderstood the problem or the situation.

Curiosity is important because our mental models often fail us. What we perceive of the world is often different that the actual. We miss nuance and details, we factor things incorrectly. Curiosity is also important because it’s playful; you’re looking forward and backward, playing with new ideas. True curiosity will toy with unimaginable things. Every since moments (which was a really shitty day), I’ve tried really hard to catch myself being frustrated, angry, bewildered, or sad and turn it into a moment of curiosity. It’s not running away from that emotion, it’s trying to use that moment as a stimulus to see a path forward I haven’t seen before.