Christine Blank

Teams who are more curious have better performance and decision-making, revealed Evette Cordy, CEO of Agents of Spring, during the IFT First featured session, “Cultivating Curiosity: The Key to Unlocking Innovative Solutions to Complex Problems,” on July 13.

Cordy detailed the importance of curiosity in both individual and professional development and coached attendees on assessing and cultivating their curiosity skills.

Organizations are often too focused on the short term—the problem—and then jump quickly to provide solutions, Cordy explained. "Businesses are great at articulating business problems such as falling revenues … but what is the customer problem you are trying to solve? That is why we must first learn to problem-find before we problem-solve, and curiosity is the tool we can use to solve our most [challenging] problems.”

There are several benefits to cultivating curiosity. “At an individual level, it lights up the pleasure center of our brain,” said Cordy. “We are more likely to see things from different perspectives and are more open to the problem we are trying to solve and the solution to solving those problems.”

Cordy led the attendees—both live and virtual—in exercises to assess the type of mindsets they have, and how developing those mindsets can improve their curiosity.

For example, the “zen master” is present and in the moment. “If your mind is empty, it is always open to anything. It is open to everything.”

Most people spend 47% of their waking day thinking about something while they are doing something else, according to Cordy. In addition, employees receive a number of interruptions per day. When they are interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back to what they were doing.

“If we are busy and not even focused on the task at hand, how can we have room to try anything new, let alone find solutions to our most valuable problems?” Cordy asked.

Another important mindset is “the novice” versus “the expert”. “We need to step out of our ‘expert’ mindset, which is ego-driven … [and] guarded,” said Cordy. Conversely, the novice mindset defers judgement, is open, and seeks the unknown.

“For us to truly be the novice, we need to adopt a beginner’s mind, leave our ego at the door, and be prepared to ask … questions,” Cordy said.

The “interrogator” mindset is “someone who gets to the heart of why people do what they do,” said Cordy. “It’s not about following a script; it’s about digging around to get to peoples’ underlying needs.”

An interrogator has open body language and tone, in order to invite people to share information with them, Cordy explained. ”Listen is an anagram for silent. The biggest gift we can give to people is to show up and give space to them,” she said.

It is human nature to have assumptions, but people need to put those aside in order to not judge and fully understand another person, according to Cordy. She presented an example of the “Human Library” in Denmark, which allows people to borrow a human for 20 minutes to hear their story.

“It is a lovely way for us to challenge our own beliefs, biases, and assumptions. Don’t judge a book by its cover; you might miss out on an interesting story,” said Cordy.

The “sleuth” mindset is someone who listens with both their ears and their eyes. “What people say and what they do are two very different things,” Cordy said.

It is also someone who doesn’t follow along with the crowd. A study found that, when in a group setting, 41% of people conform to the opinion of the group rather than standing by their own opinion. “Someone else’s opinion can inform how you view the world,” said Cordy.

“Don’t blend in, stand out. Break the rules, and live outside your comfort zone,” she added.

The “playmaker” is another important mindset in developing curiosity. “We tend to fear play for fear of looking silly … or damaging our personal brand. Play is a gateway to … profound experiences.”

Play can be done with purpose, and everyone is working toward a shared goal. “The best outcomes [occur] when everyone is a participant and they have trust in the process,” Cordy said.

About the Author

Christine Blank has been a professional freelance writer for more than 25 years, covering the food, retail and foodservice industries. Her articles have been published in leading publications, including The New York Times, Associated Press, USA Today, Supermarket News, SeafoodSource, and Progressive Grocer.

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