“I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.” – John Sculley on Steve Jobs
Jack Dorsey, Square Founder & CEO and Twitter Founder & Chairman, attributes his entrepreneurial success to his curiosity. Steve Jobs was known for his intense curiosity, as is Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and not just curiosity targeted at their chosen fields – Steve Jobs pursued Eastern Mysticism, Bill Gates read the entire Encyclopedia and Warren Buffett is known for quoting Shakespeare and obscure historical references.
So how can curiosity help you as an entrepreneur?
- Innovating – curious is the ideal balance of knowing and not knowing. With simple curiosity as the driver, we not only end up knowing more, our desire to know even more is never quenched. Even better is untargeted curiosity, which results in learning a lot about a lot of different things. This helps to make previously undiscovered connections or innovative leaps.
- Sales & Marketing – knowing your customer is critical to understanding their problems, how to serve them and how to communicate your solution to them. Spending time with people from your target market and being curious, really getting to know their hopes and fears, will greatly improve your ability to sell and market.
- Business Development – it’s all about building relationships and curiosity is the easiest way to start up a conversation. Most people love talking about themselves. Curiosity encourages people to open up, to be vulnerable, building a connection quickly.
- Team building – relationship building is also critical to team building. Curiosity helps you to leverage Stephen Covey’s concept of the emotional bank account, using your understanding of someone to make meaningful deposits that build your relationship.
- Negotiating – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” is another of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (discussed in more detail in a previous post). We more easily achieve win-win deals through a deep understanding of both our own company’s needs and that of our partner’s. Curiosity helps us to better understand ourselves and others.
- Rebounding from Failure – curiosity helps us learn from our mistakes. A great lesson from Akido recently shared with me by a colleague: your response to the failure (or attack) is crucial – do you deflect and use the blow, or simply absorb the pain?
And what can you do to become more curious?
- Boredom. Take a vacation. Do nothing. Just be.
- Curiosity starts with a question. Simply posing more questions shifts your experience of the world and others’ experience of you.
- Don’t be deductive – it shuts people down. Asking open questions (questions starting with ‘what’ or ‘how’ work best – ‘why’ can seem interrogatory) literally opens people up. Also, if you ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions you limit the answers to what you already expect and therefore what you already know.