In one famous quote, Albert Einstein explained his genius when he famously said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."

The second part of that quote is certainly good news for the majority of us that fall well short of Einstein-esque IQ. Because curiosity, as it turns out, is a quality most of us can activate within us.  

Here's the thing: By being curious we learn and grow. And by being passionately curious, we continue to learn and grow, and become even more curious. See where Einstein was going? Maybe there's an Einstein in all of us.

The research: Curiosity leads to better relationships, more creativity, and great conversations.

Interestingly enough, Einstein said this well before the evidence came out.  Several studies published in Greater Good Magazine reveal that curious people have better relationships and connect better with others. In fact, other people are more easily attracted and feel socially closer to individuals that display curiosity.

Harvard Business Review reports that people with a higher "curiosity quotient" (CQ) are more inquisitive and generate more original ideas, and this "thinking style" leads to higher levels of knowledge acquisition over time. CQ, the author states, "is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems."

Want to be the most interesting person in the room? In a previous article, I posed seven questions a person needs to ask that will ignite captivating conversations. But in order for that scenario to happen, curiosity is the social prerequisite.

George Mason University psychologist Todd Kashdan, author of Curious? determined that being interested in others is more important than being interesting yourself. "It's the secret juice of relationships," stated Kashdan.

If you're looking for a high-performing team environment, being curious and asking questions about why and how things work, for example, inspires creative thinking in a team setting. It also opens up doors for your team to share their input and ideas, which fosters innovation and keeps you from growing stagnant.

Top leaders have what's called "Applied Curiosity." 

Conversely, this also defines great leaders. They have what former New York Times "Corner Office" columnist Adam Bryant calls "applied curiosity." Bryant interviewed 525 chief executives and other leaders in a ten-year span and found that applied curiosity is the single most important quality that explains why they all became CEOs.

So what's behind applied curiosity? In Bryant's own words

It means trying to understand how things work, and then trying to understand how they can be made to work better. It means being curious about people and their backstories. It means using insights to build deceptively simple frameworks and models in their minds to make sense of their industry -- and all the other disruptive forces shaping our world -- so they can explain it to others. Then they continue asking questions about those models, and it's those questions that often lead to breakthrough ideas. 

Looking to hire or promote leaders? Finding the leadership trait of curiosity in your future leaders may be your secret weapon. Leadership coach, speaker, and author Art Petty says, "In the right environment, curiosity leads to experimentation. Experimentation is the foundation of innovation."

Bringing it home.

So let me ask you some questions: What are the sort of things that pique your interest, that get you curious? What questions do you need to ask to figure something out? How will you increase your curiosity quotient and keep your mind sharp? Don't sell yourself short, or your ability to use your curiosity to lead better or create important things to make the world a better place. You may be on to something big. By fully activating your curious potential, elevating yourself to Einstein level may not be that far out of reach after all.

Published on: Feb 15, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.