We wouldn’t have breakthrough discoveries without that wonderful quality – curiosity - from inventing fire, the aircraft to the Google search engine. That magical feeling that goes about investigating new information, pondering on a different way of doing something or simply trying something out new (and often having that incredible ‘Ah hah’ moment) is an innate quality we all have.
No More Boredom
Without curiosity we would have a very boring and unproductive world. It is key to your success in your engineering career. However, many managers and companies fear it as it can be rather disruptive and encourage chaos. Something engineering professionals with their love of order aren’t always fond of. Certainly, you don’t want chaotic curiosity occurring in a bridge design otherwise you may have some catastrophic results.
Without any question – curiosity is particularly important to engineering professionals and their organisations in lifting one’s creativity and strengths. It improves your performance especially in an uncertain economic environment making you more resilient to the changes coming.
Typical benefits of curiosity include: Fewer errors when making a decision as you are constantly questioning assumptions and stereotypes; driving innovation by being creative and questioning; perhaps reducing conflict as you consider other people’s perspectives and finally more open communications with others as you open your mind to alternatives.
However, in my experience, leaders of organisations often avoid encouraging curiosity. They have huge and often brutal performance targets that your are being measured by. This means that they are absolutely focussed on these targets in their clinical search for efficiency and can’t avoid time for experimentation and curiosity.
How do you increase curiosity in your engineering life ?
A few suggestions (from Francesca Gino modified by my take on engineering):
Surround yourself by curious people. Hire, build your team from and actively move towards curious people. This will have an avalanche effect on your performance and that of your team in lifting your creativity dramatically.
Model yourself as an inquisitive curious person. Ask questions and investigate and encourage others in your team to do the same.
Encourage learning every day all day. Open the opportunities to further study to all your team and certainly yourself. I dedicate an hour early every morning on study and gaining a skill or an appreciation in a new area. Sometimes a painful pursuit as it challenges one’s brain. But it is the only way forward in building and sustaining your engineering career.
Randomly set up regular “What if” and “How Might we” sessions on particular topics with your team.
Remember that Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.
Thanks to Francesca Gino of Harvard Business Review for an interesting take on this topic.
Yours in engineering learning
Mackay’s Musings – 21st August’18 #677