Client name: Diane Hamilton
Website links: http://drdianehamilton.com
About page link or bio listed elsewhere: https://drdianehamilton.com/about/
Book (if they have one): CRACKING THE CURIOSITY CODE, The Key to Unlocking Human Potential
Books, or any other relevant links:
- On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Curiosity-Code-Unlocking-Potential/dp/164237346X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1548450119&sr=8-1&linkCode=sl1&tag=onekanzuru-20&linkId=f75fea235f93fc757701f94310110b2a&language=en_US
Transcript of Our Interview:
Okay. So to get started, this sounds like a very basic question, but I want to talk about what is curiosity? Just to kind of start from the beginning, what is it and how do we lose it?
We all know that curiosity is kind of the desire to learn and do more, explore areas we don’t know. But in the business setting, I was looking at it beyond that. I was looking at how to get up out of status quo thinking. I think of curiosity is just the ability to ask questions and explore and feel comfortable doing it without something holding you back and keeping you in that status quo kind of way of thinking. Because when you’re a kid, you always were that way, right? You’re exploring, you’re figuring things out. I love this picture. When I give a talk, I show these two little girls and they’re at the San Francisco Museum of Art and there’s all this incredible artwork all around them. And instead of looking at the artwork, they’re looking through the grate on the ground. There is this vent that they want to see what’s on the other side of the vent. That’s what you do when you’re a kid. You’re like, Oh, what’s behind there? I’m looking at the picture. I’m wanting to know what’s behind there you know, and you wonder when you lose that. You know, your parents say, get off the ground, you’re getting dirty, stand up, you know, you don’t know what it’s like, what we do with our kids, right? And we lose it, you know, around age five it peaks. Everybody’s got this really high level of curiosity, it peaks and then around age five it tanks, and as we get older, it just really drops. That with curiosity and creativity both. We really see a huge decline. That was what is interesting to me. When I started writing my book about curiosity, I started to think, well, what happened to it? Where is it going and how do we get it back? And so that was what my interest was.
That’s very interesting. I love that. The idea of the grate, that’s fantastic. So tell me a little bit more about curiosity in the business world. What are some of the benefits of bringing curiosity into the work that we do?
As I wrote the book, I started to think about all the things that companies complain about and all of the things that they hire me to speak about. Like, in terms of leadership soft skills, and a lot of it is engagement, innovation, productivity, all those things are everybody’s pain points of what they’re trying to fix. And we know companies lose 500 billion a year for low engagement. Everybody quotes the Gallup survey and there are all these numbers of hundreds of billions that we’re losing for communication from all of these things. We all know that artificial intelligence is going to take all these jobs and what are we going to do with all of these people? And the same conversations come up over and over again, right? And I thought, well, I’m going to write a chapter about each of these things.
Like I have one on emotional intelligence and one on this and one on that, you know? And I started to think, wow, no matter what I wrote about, no matter what the problem was, it kept coming back to curiosity as the solution, which was interesting to me because when I give a talk, I also share the story about curiosity and thinking of it like baking a cake. Okay, you’re gonna make a cake. What do you do? You mix ingredients, right? You’ve got flour and oil and eggs and whatever your ingredients are. For me, it’s cake mix cause I’m lazy, but whatever it is, you mix it together, right? And you put it in a pan and you put it in the oven. So what happens?
Well, if you don’t turn on the oven, nothing happens, right? You get goo, no one gets cake. And that’s what’s happening in the workplace. All the things we’re talking about, the soft skills, motivation and an innovation and engagement. Those are the cake mix ingredients. But nobody’s turning on the oven, which is curiosity. That’s the spark to all these things. And without it you get goo. You’re not getting cake. Okay. And that’s what I’m trying to avoid. So that’s how this is so important in the workplace.
I’m trying to remember your initial question exactly. What are some of the benefits of bringing curiosity? Those are the benefits because you have curiosity, you have motivation and drive and engagement and all of these things. And then the benefit if you tie it all the way down, of course, is productivity, which of course is financial benefit because everybody’s more successful.
Absolutely. Yeah. So just kind of tying into this you talked about some of the factors that hold people back from achieving their full potential as business owners and entrepreneurs. Can you tell me about some of those things that curiosity can help overcome?
Well, you know, if you’re asking about the factors that inhibit curiosity, that’s what I was thinking. What I wanted to figure out, and really challenging as I was writing the book, I thought, okay, so there’s all these assessments out there that determine what and whether you’re curious or not. Well that didn’t really help me. If I have a low level curiosity, well if I’m a low level then what do I do? Right? It didn’t get me where I wanted to go. So I started to put links like threads out in LinkedIn asking people what keeps you from being curious and it’s a lot of fear kind of related things. Nobody wants to look stupid or unprepared. I got a lot of that stuff. And I started thinking, well I need to create an assessment that determines what keeps people from being curious so that I could fix what is stopping it and move forward.
So I hired people from Harvard and Pepperdine, all these people I talked to, cause they were really smart people. The psychometric statisticians to get these questions. And I hired so many people to help me with this, and a lot of them were just giving me the same old questions, are you curious or not kind of questions. I’m like, no, I don’t want that. I want to know what’s stoppng you. So now I’ve learned from all these people and I taught myself factor analysis and did all these things to figure out how to calculate the right questions and the data to make sure it was valid and found all the right questions to ask and I found the four factors that were the inhibitors of curiosity.
So,the acronym is fate, F A T E, which stands for fear assumptions, which is the voice in your head, what you’re telling yourself, technology and environment. And it was really fascinating to me. I really knew fear would be there. No question. Everybody who doesn’t wanna look stupid. I mean, you’re in the meeting and you don’t want to ask the question, everybody else’s thinking it. You go, Hey Bob, why don’t you ask, you didn’t want Bob to look stupid, but you don’t want to look stupid. Right? We all have that, right?
That’s the culture that a lot of companies create, they create this fear-based culture, don’t ask me, don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions, kind of mentality. You’re afraid to talk, and then we get status-quo thinking, which is really problematic. There’s a famous thought experiment that looked at status-quo thinking of why people go along with just what everybody else is going along with, which was a lot of what I thought about in this research when I was coming up with these four factors.
A woman went into a doctor’s office, eye doctor, thinking she’s getting her eyes examined, right? But in reality it was a thought experiment going on and she’s the only one in there that’s not in on it. Everybody around her are actors. So while she’s sitting there waiting, somebody rings a bell or a buzzer kind of sound goes off and everybody around her, these actors, got up and sat down with no explanation. And then every time this bell went off, they did the same thing. And everyone went up and down. And she’s looking around at them with this really weird look on her face. But, after a few times of them doing this, what do you think happens when the bell rings? She gets up with him and sits down because everybody else is doing it, right? So she’s getting up and sitting down and they’re like, well, okay, so she’s going along with it. She has no idea why she’s going along with it. She’s just doing it right.
I go, well this will be interesting. Let’s take everybody out of the room and see what she does when she’s alone. So they call everybody back like they’re getting their eyes examined and she’s left alone. So what do you think she does? The bell rings, she still gets up and sits down, cause this is social learning. You learn what’s status-quo thinking this is what you’re supposed to do, but we don’t know why. So she gets used to doing that. And I think, well, let’s just add some real people off the street. See what happens when they get in the room. Bell goes off, she stands up, sits down. The first guy comes in is sitting next to her, looks at her and says, why’d you do that? And she goes, well, everybody else was doing it, I thought I was supposed to. So what do you think he does when the bell rings the next time? And everybody else who comes in, we all stand up and sit down because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to have that fear based , “I’m the only one not doing it” kind of thinking this or saying this kind of mentality? So fear did not surprise me. So that’s a huge thing.
And then fear ties into other factors. I mean, you get fear of technology or you can have fear that leads to these assumptions in our head. Now the assumptions are very big in terms of I’m not going to like that, that sounds boring or I’ve done that in the past, it wasn’t very good. Or we tell ourselves all these things, my boss is just gonna give me more work if I say something about this and then I’m not going to get paid for it.
Whatever it is, you tell yourself, right? And these assumptions, it’s like holding water. Let’s say I held a thing of water in my hand. I asked you how heavy is this? You might say eight ounces or 10 ounces or whatever. And the fact is it doesn’t really matter how heavy it is. It matters how long I hold it. And if I hold it for a second or two, no big deal. If I hold it for an hour, my arm starts to get tired. If I hold it all day on my arm is paralyzed. But our thoughts are like that. If we hold on to something quickly, it’s no big deal. But if we start telling ourselves the same things over and over again, it starts to make us uncomfortable. If we hold on too long, we become paralyzed. So we need to put the water down, right? We need to stop thinking all these thoughts.
But we have to recognize that we’re even holding the water to begin with. That’s what the assumptions part was. And then technology, a lot of us over under utilize it. We become so reliant on things we don’t even know why. We don’t know how she came up with it on the echo device. We just know she answers the question. And maybe our real passion in life would be to program, those questions that she answers. But if we don’t even know why or how she comes up with them we need to get foundations, we need to do that. But we also need to understand the technology and utilize it to the best of its advantages. And so some of us get like, Ugh, it’s too much. I don’t want to learn it. I just learned the last version of it. Do I really want to learn the next version? You know, we get into all these different problems with technology that sometimes we become lazy or we become complacent.
And then with environment that’s a huge one for a lot of people, it is for me. Your family really can have a big impact. Your school, as I mentioned, once you get five or six years old, you’re in school. Teachers aren’t going to answer every why question you have. They don’t have time, they have 30 other kids. They have to teach to the test. They have curriculum. There’s a ton of reasons why our education system really as a sir Robinson as Ted talks, as you know, we’re educating people out of our capabilities because we’re focusing so much on science and math and certain things that sometimes these soft skills, these creativity type things, these curiosity things get by the wayside. And that’s what’s happening is we need to re-learn some of this natural sense.
To do that we have to recognize what’s holding us back. If it’s parents saying you have to be a policeman, we all have been policemen. Or we have to be an accountant because we all are in accounting. Or if your teacher just didn’t answer to that or your last boss looked at you and said, I can’t believe you just said that, that was really stupid. Or you don’t know how many things, social media, you post something. If somebody doesn’t like it, you know our heads explode. So there’s so many things that impact us and that’s why I thought it was really important if when people take this assessment, they get, the 26-page report and all that. Just like if you took a Myers Briggs or some kind of an assessment, but it tells you these are theareas, this is where you could improve and this is how you need to create an action plan to overcome them. Then we can really develop, because if AI is going to take over your job, if you’re really not happy in your job, if we really have all this low engagement and all that, wouldn’t it be great to find the things that we really are good at and that we really would care to do, which would really love if we’d only had explored it. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
Absolutely. That’s great. So it seems like our first step is obviously to realize that there’s a problem to realize that there could be more curiosity in our life and that we don’t have that and that’s a valuable thing. From that point forward there is this assessment, which can break down the particulars. But would you have some advice for in general, anyone as an entrepreneur or business owners, small steps that they could take to kind of move in this direction and get in touch with their curious side again?
Well, I really think understanding the value of curiosity, which we’re talking about now is the first step. We understand that. And now as we look at these, just write down those four things, fear, assumptions, technology and environment right now on a piece of paper and think of different areas in your life that you know this is maybe impacted you or you fear. Do you have a fear of looking dumb? Do you have a fear of looking unprepared? You have a fear of, Oh, you know, all the things that you might be held back by. And once you point out to yourself all these different things come up was kind of a personal SWOT, think of your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, your threats in life and create kind of smart goals of ways to overcome some of these things.
If you have a fear of exploration or at work sometimes just telling your boss that you’re trying to advance your abilities in certain areas and preface what you’re trying to do so they see you’re working on self-development, they’re less likely to go, well that’s dumb. You know what I mean? If you say, I know everybody’s working on engagement here and I thought to become more engaged, I thought it would help me to maybe look into a few different areas within the company. Is there a chance I can learn about this division, that division? Look at a couple of different opportunities just in your own personal life. Read a different section in a newspaper then you always read, take a different route to work, to look at things from a new perspective, to try to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes here and there. Just don’t be you for a day just to see what it’s like to be someone else, you know? And that helps build empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence, which is what I wrote my dissertation about. I think all of this ties into emotional intelligence because the more you explore and ask people about themselves, the more empathy you’re going to build. And we all know empathy and emotional intelligence in general helps people be a lot more successful at work.
Absolutely. And be a lot better towards each other as well. Great advice. My last question is kind of a funny one, but I just was throwing in the idea that curiosity killed the cat. I wanted to see if you had any thoughts about whether there is any value in limiting our curiosity, if it can be taken too far or if you feel like this is something that should be unleashed, and we should.
Well, if you’re curious about how many levels you can get through in candy crush, that might not be the best kind of curiosity. So we have to have directed goals in it, serious curiosity here. We’re not talking just Hey, Hey, Hey, you know, look in all directions and not really have any meaning or purpose. Think about just the kind of curiosity that is directed at learning something new, something that’s beneficial to you, that’ll make your life a little better. I mean, curiosity killed the cat came from parents who didn’t want their kids asking so many questions. It’s driving them crazy, right? Yeah. Stop. You know what I mean? That’s part of the thing that killed curiosity. We don’t want people saying that and we want people to really think about a directed curiosity that’s got an end goal that’s going to get you somewhere that you want to be, and not just in a game where you’re going to end up nowhere. I think that there are so many different ways that you can become curious about all kinds of different things. I think it’s really cool to just look into areas that you normally wouldn’t explore because you’ve told yourself, that voice in your head, your assumptions are that you wouldn’t find it interesting. Why not try something new? A different topic each week. Just, just look into it, see if it interests you. If it doesn’t, it’s not going to kill the cat. It’s just not meant for you.
That makes sense. Great advice. Thank you so much. This was fantastic. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me Jess.