When I was growing up, I developed a strong desire to understand how things worked, and how I could fix things that were broken. I can attest to the fact that I got this curiosity directly from my father. My mother, wonderful woman that she is, could care less how things worked. She really just wanted them to work when she needed it. My dad, on the other hand, was always tinkering, taking things apart, and pulling me along to show me what he was learning. I caught the curiosity bug, and this has been one of the characteristics that has both defined me as a person, and helped me influence those around me in the work world.
In the 1970s, we were still a country that valued items that lasted, and weren’t as focused on “disposability” as we are today. Because of that, it was common in our house that we used items until they broke, and then my dad would take them apart, figure out what was wrong, and put it back together in working order. In fact, I am pretty sure I can remember “helping” him take a washing machine apart, and repairing it ourselves. No need for a repairman, no manuals from the internet, and certainly no sending it off to the dump and buying a new one.
My dad would take his time, and help me see how all the pieces fit together, and what made each item “tick.” It was informative, and when the broken device suddenly worked again, it was like magic. I actually felt like I made something better. It wasn’t long until I was asking to take apart old radios, toasters, and even my toys to see what made them work.
Today, in a world that has seemingly embraced obsolescence, we can sometimes be guilty of doing just enough in our jobs to get by. Just knowing enough to make us good at our jobs, but never really becoming an expert in fixing things, or learning how other systems function. We’ve lost that sense of curiosity about how things work, how we can innovate, and what we can do to improve. Information is disposable, and our curiosity only takes more energy, and adds work to our already full plates. But curiosity is one of the great hidden gems of influence and leadership.
The benefit of curiosity is the value it adds to the organization. Fact is, most folks just don’t have the same drive to learn something new, and when they do, it likely because they have to, not because they want to. When you are curious, and always on a quest to learn more, you inevitably learn things that help yourself, and the organization succeed. When you share this knowledge liberally, you add value to the team, and may even help others to become more focused on seeking knowledge.
If you aren’t already naturally curious, how can you develop this trait? There are three things you can do, starting today, that will help you grow your curious nature, and become someone who adds additional value to your team and your company.
- Make reading part of your daily routine. If you don’t use tools that help you curate your business reading, I suggest you look at something like Flipboard or Feedly. Both of these tools (as well as others) allow you to select the journals, blogs, and news sites that are key to your business or industry. They have outstanding iPad and Android apps that allow you to read at night — or anytime you can have some quiet, focused time. I read every night, and use that time to catch up on the latest news, and send articles out to folks who might be interested as well.
- Share what you learn liberally. One of the ways you will quickly find the value in curiosity is in sharing what you have learned with others. Part of being an influencer in your organization is being the person who is most up to date on key topics, trends, and ideas that are driving your industry. It’s not that most people aren’t interested in learning more, they just don’t know how to go about getting the information. If you can be the curator of knowledge — and share that freely — you will find that you become the “go to” person when new ideas are needed.
- Find ways to apply what you learn in your organization. Once you have a habit of reading and being curious, the most important step is to be able to take what you learn, and apply it to a completely different situation. What I might have learned by taking a toaster apart wouldn’t apply to what I needed to know about a space heater, but many of the concepts are the same. The real power comes in being able to take ideas and concepts from one industry, and apply it to yours. That’s where the real genius occurs!
Knowledge is a powerful influencer, and setting yourself apart by knowledge will lead to greater influence on the organization. And, you just might learn a little something along the way!
What are your techniques for spreading knowledge in your organization? Share — it’s part of the fun!