Diana Kander on Curiosity
In January, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) held its annual conference in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Heidi Neck, the Jeffry A. Timmons Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Babson, was ending her term as President of USASBE and organized this incredible conference that I was lucky enough to attend. During one breakfast keynote, I was thrilled that the speaker was Diana Kander, New York Times bestselling author of All in Startup. Her presentation focused on the importance of curiosity. She recommends thinking of curiosity like a muscle group- if you don’t regularly use it, it will atrophy!
She began by asking the audience to think about their biggest problems and explained that curiosity can help solve them. Curiosity helps us connect with others and remain relevant even in areas that we have been involved in for years. She explained a few ways that curiosity can be used and improved in our everyday lives.
Ms. Kander admitted that while it can be difficult to be curious, everyone has blind spots. A blind spot is something glaringly obvious about you that everyone sees except you (a phenomenon that Ms. Kander compared to having food stuck in your teeth). As we experience increasing success, we tend to stop seeing our own problem areas. We may feel that everything is going perfectly, but everyone has problems to work on. Limiting your self-curiosity causes serious damage to your professional growth. She recommends asking trusted peers to help determine your own blind spots. For example, if you are a professor, ask your students to fill out mid-semester evaluations about their experience or have another professor sit in on your class to review your performance.
If the feedback you receive does not surprise you, you won’t grow from it. Curiosity is scary! You need to solicit honest, surprising and sometimes painful feedback in order to truly make a change. Many of us fall victim to confirmation bias and ignore warnings that we are not always perfect. When asking for feedback, tell the person that you are looking to get better and the only way for them to help is if they are honest. Simply put, if you want better results, ask better questions.
Finally, Ms. Kander recommends “scheduling” curiosity. Once a week, ask yourself “What is the biggest problem I need to solve?” Think about something you can improve to create value in your life, then figure out how to approach it. She closed the presentation by sharing that “curiosity can help you get to unbelievable places you never thought were possible. If you teach yourself not to settle, you will never peak.” This is a great lesson for everyone regardless of age, profession, or experience.