Ask more questions – Why?
30 November 2018

Employee engagement – employee development - performance

Children are incredibly curious and ask so many questions, often with each question ending in “why?” In fact some of the questions they ask are astonishing and it makes you wonder how they came up with it. Apparently they average one question every two minutes. One of my favourites is from a little boy who asked why, if flies fly the right way up, they land upside down. That is a question I still don’t know the answer to.

Unfortunately when a child pursues this line of persistent questioning it can annoy many parents as they find it exhausting, which is a shame as it can then discourage the curious nature of the child. It is difficult when children ask questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “What is a dream?”, so they give vague or snappy replies. But they don’t help the child find out the real answer. By the time the child is at school, he or she has lost the will to be curious or at least learned to be much quieter.

Being inquisitive is a really lovely quality to have and it can help children into a more enjoyable and rewarding adulthood.

Think about it in terms of the future when the child becomes an adult and gets a job. Good employers will value intellectually curious employees. Curiosity is just as important a quality in a work team as intelligence. The intellectually curious have "hungry minds" and really want answers.
I understand such people can be a bit trickier to manage as they will always ask “why?” But why shouldn’t they understand the reasoning behind things. If they get the thinking, they’re on board, as opposed to being bored.

They get bored easily and will like lots of intellectual stimulation. But they are always interested in new ideas, new processes, and are more likely to look at how they can improve the day-to-day business.

These curious types want to grow and increase their knowledge and experiences constantly. These characteristics lends to create employees who are eager to grow and expand their role in any way that excites them, which is important in a small business where every employee has to carry out a variety of roles.
It’s been found that curiosity and intelligence often go hand in hand. Research from the University of California found the greater interest someone had in a question, the better they would ultimately remember the answer.

Being curious has also been linked to other benefits such as social, emotional, psychological and health. People who are curious tend to have active rather than passive minds. They ask questions and search for answers. They notice and are stimulated by new ideas. Life is far more exciting when you’re curious!
Other research has suggested that you are happier, have better relationships, are more empathetic and are a better problem solver if you are a curious person. Being curious has so many benefits but it’s often discouraged during our childhood. (“Children should be seen but not heard”). Einstein said with some asperity: "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." And so it is.

This wonderful trait also helps leaders to build and develop great teams. They create opportunities and ways of breaking away from limited thinking. Intellectually curious leaders actively engage are risk-takers, entrepreneurial, courageous but not foolish. They experiment, testing the boundaries of possibilities without fear of failure. Curious people keep asking questions to achieve their goals. They like a full and open debate and welcome ideas. They are great people to have on your team. Encourage your people to explore the conceptual work and ask themselves - and you - more questions.

Here are some tips on how to develop your own intellectual curiosity:

  • Open your mind to new ideas.
  • Don’t take anything for granted.
  • Listen carefully and focus on what’s being said.
  • Ask questions about everything.
  • Be willing to ask questions that might seem stupid.
  • Don’t label something as boring. Be interested in everything.
  • See mistakes as learning and learning as something fun.
  • Read widely to inspire, inform and develop your mind. 

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2018 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.