14 Aug Curiosity – An Essential Ingredient For Career Success In The Future Of Work
1093 patents (singly or jointly), the inventor of the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, a highly successful manufacturer and businessman- also known as Wizard of Menlo Park!
Thomas Alva Edison was all of this, but what was behind this prolific talent and output?
When Edison visited Louis Pasteur at his home, Pasteur had a sign-in guest book that included space not only for the guest’s name but also his/her area of interest as well.
After signing his name, Edison wrote in the area of interest column ‘EVERYTHING’.
Edison was insatiably CURIOUS and his abundance of curiosity has left us all better off because of the terrific inventions and innovations he was able to make, fueled by this curiosity.
Curiosity is the most essential mindset for the Future of Work! It is also the most important skill to have to reinvent yourself in your career and be ready for the future world of work. Until now, we may have thought that curiosity leads us to some breakthrough ideas at a few times in our careers and for the most part, we may be prizing productivity, efficiency and utility over curiosity. But we need to bid farewell to this approach and instead give curiosity a rethink as a must-have skill for success in 21st century careers.
Think about it – what are voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Ok Google doing? By remaining curious and listening in to all that is going on, whether you know about it or not, these assistants are building a formidable ability to learn. So, if we are to stay relevant, like these assistants, we have to have an insatiable curiosity. But we need a special kind of curiosity different from that of the curiosity of artificial intelligence. We need a curiosity which not only informs and educates, but guides, excites, drives us. This is a curiosity which comes from a deep place of interest and wonder inside us, leading us to think, imagine, discover, collaborate and create.
In fact, renowned physicist Richard Feynman looked at discoveries throughout the whole history of science and recognized that “most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.”
Curiosity is the mindset necessary for us to stay continuous learners and without continuous learning, we will be hard pressed to adapt to the rapidly changing world. Curiosity can open our minds to new experiences and also make us see new aspects to familiar experiences. In fact, learning to say ‘I don’t know, will you tell me more about this’ will be a great asset in the future of work, putting us in the happy place of being child-like and eager to know more.
Disruption, Uncertainty and Change are here to stay. There is no area of life/work which is immune to disruption, uncertainty and change, especially after what covid19 has made us experience. In such a scenario particularly, curiosity holds the key to unlocking career growth and professional success. Here are 3 reasons why:
- Curiosity helps you thrive in complex work environments – Complex work environments require a great blend of critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. Career success today depends on not just being great at certain technical skills but requires us to master the ability to work in complex work environments. These environments and the kind of work problems they pose, require 1. Intellectual ability 2. Inter-personal savvy 3. Creativity.
Underlying all these three elements is Curiosity. Curiosity fuels desire to expand intellectual understanding of a problem and learn the knowledge and skills needed to apply oneself to the problem. Curiosity also drives us to make connections with diverse kinds of people and work with them collaboratively to find answers to complex problems. Thirdly, curiosity makes us think and wonder about new ways of doing things, leading us to get creative in our problem solving approaches.
- Curiosity makes you a more interesting person – Asking lot of questions, especially thoughtful ones which make others also think before giving you an answer, naturally make you a more interesting person. You will be seen as trying to learn, having a keen intelligence and also one who makes good conversations, all of which make you stand out from others and be noticed. Even more, curious people tend to have richer and more diverse networks, which positions them for accessing better career opportunities. They are seen by their network as people who can quickly learn and this makes them likely to be recommended more strongly as well for exciting roles and career prospects.
- Curiosity makes you a Continuous Learner – The world’s most innovative companies which also offer great careers, such as Google and IDEO, hire people who demonstrate curiosity because that’s what enables them to learn continuously. Especially, where solutions are not easy and require divergent thinking, curiosity keeps people motivated to learn from their experiments and failures too while also taking responsibility for driving their own learning. IDEO, the design and consulting company, seeks to hire “T-shaped” employees: people with deep skills that allow them to contribute to the creative process (the vertical stroke of the T) and a predisposition for collaboration across disciplines, a quality
So go ahead, ask those questions, pick up that book to know more and seek out new kinds of people. Your career will thank you for being curious.
Read Also – Applying Design Thinking To Designing Careers
Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 18 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.