Written by Katy White
Research Contributed by Dylan Wheatley
Any Ted Lasso fan will be familiar with one of the most motivational scenes: Ted’s “Be Curious” speech. In his monologue, Ted emphasizes the importance of curiosity with a triple bullseye to win a dart match against his underestimating opponent. Ted argues that his opponent’s lack of curiosity led him to misjudge Ted, ultimately leading to Ted’s victory. Indeed, research shows that curiosity is a strong marker of academic success and has many benefits for businesses, including reducing decision-making errors and group conflict and increasing innovation, creativity, and team performance. However, despite these benefits, curiosity isn’t always the go-to starting place for problem-solving. Between the human brain’s tendency for categorization and an ever-growing desire for efficiency, it can be challenging to resist a one-size-fits-all approach.
Our ever-diversifying and fast-paced world calls for problem-solving that strikes a balance between a tailored approach and a one-size-fits-all approach, allowing for a process that is both curious and efficient. One way to achieve such a balance is to invest time in developing a deep understanding of the problem at hand before diving into a solution. Two subtle but powerful techniques can infuse the discovery phase of problem-solving with curiosity.
1) Value Uniqueness
Despite the aforementioned tendency of the human brain to categorize everything we encounter, people and organizations are unique entities that create distinct contributions to the world. Therefore, as individuals and in organizations, our problems are also unique. When we value this diversity and become curious about it, we can develop a solution that harnesses this uniqueness as a powerful strength. Doing so does not necessitate a new solution for every situation. With curiosity, we can tailor an established process to the specific needs and challenges of those involved.
2) Seek Understanding
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey encourages readers to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” When problem-solving with others, we’re unlikely to mobilize people toward a solution without first ensuring that everyone feels seen, heard, understood, and valued. It is impossible to develop a deep understanding without curiosity. Curiosity is the first step toward engaging willing partners in our solutions.
Whether we hope to win more dart games, become better friends or partners, or develop creative and effective solutions to problems in our organizations, grounding ourselves in curiosity is a vital first step.