Cultivate Curiosity, Yours and Your Associates
Young children are naturally curious. Too often we get impatient with their incessant questions and dampen their curiosity. Curiosity is a good thing, even a great thing.
With associates as with children, it may be advantageous to ask them a question when they ask you for an answer. How have you tried to answer this so far? Or how could you explore the idea yourself to find possible answers? Be sure to encourage the thought that there may be several good answers not just one. What options have you thought of, so far? How can you search out multiple options and then make a choice among the options?
As with all questions you ask, unless you are a teacher testing your students, only ask questions you are not already certain of the answer. You have to be open to the ideas and answers you will hear. You have to want to hear creative and unusual answers.
Ask, how will you explore options and compare them?
Here are some ideas to share as ways to compare and contrast possible paths to make thoughtful conclusions.
- Force yourself or your team to write down as many options as possible. Challenge yourselves to list at least 10 ways to solve the problem, or some number that requires a bigger list than you think is possible. The reason for the stretch list is that the first ones you think about will be the same old boring over-used answers. It is only when you have to come up with larger numbers of answers that you get into the creative and interesting solutions.
- Some ideas that would normally get rejected without exploring will make it on to the list.
- Every option listed deserves some what-if and how-could-it-work analysis.
- Combinations and permutations of the various options can sometimes evolve into a better solution than any of the answers listed individually.
- The process of brainstorming options will get your brain on a roll allowing you to keep coming up with more ideas after you thought you were finished. Keep paper and pencil or a recorder handy and record every idea no matter how far-fetched.
Your brand, your organization and you yourself will be differentiated by all the great ideas, solutions, and the ideation process itself. People are attracted by and buy from organizations that are clearly differentiated.
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Too often our business conversations sound more like a sales presentation, and a poor one at that. Consider that your listener can find data, information, and knowledge by looking it up on the internet or in books. What they need and can appreciate is the wisdom to recognize how, when, where, why, and with whom to apply the knowledge. Think about the level of conversations in which you participate. How can you contribute more to move up a level. This is a hierarchy of the kind of conversations possible:
Perhaps you heard the old adage, “You have two ears and one mouth, you should be listening twice as much as talking.” Here’s another one: “You can’t learn anything new when you are talking.” Listening well, listening for meaning, shows your respect for the other person, wins friends, and allows you to pick up different perspectives on a situation even if it doesn’t change your mind.
There is no better way to show respect than to really listen.
I was a geek mathematician at one time who got curious about why some people couldn’t understand some mathematical concepts like fractions. So I did my dissertation research on the subject and the answers I found led to more questions about how people learn and why not all people learned the same way or at the same pace. And as I did what many people do, move from one profession to another, one job to another, I got immersed in computer artificial intelligence as it compared to human intelligence, what intelligence is anyway, and how to apply my interests and what I researched to the way people approach and understand business decisions and general thinking.
That may sound like a long road but, looking back, it was a natural progression for me.
Now I speak and write about business decision-making, how to improve and explain and have confidence in one’s own decision-making. We all have funny and poignant stories about decisions we’ve made in the past.
What are yours?
Do you prefer to download a book and be able to start reading immediately? Or do you like a hardcopy to make notes in the margins, underline and highlight?
I’d love to hear about your preferences.
Most of the time I prefer an EBook on my iPad. But sometimes I want to be able to easily look through, look for notes I made, and get a feel for how the whole book is organized. Then I absolutely need to have the ‘real’ book in my hands.
What about you?
Listen for meaning
Everyone can learn to listen better though some are already better than others naturally. The trick to help you focus is to be listening for meaning. Hearing the words, even repeating the words is no guarantee that you understood what was said. Listen and clarify for meaning not the words.
Some tips to improve your listening for meaning:
1. Paraphrase what was said. Then ask did you get it right. Paraphrasing is not repeating the words, instead it is restating in your own words an shorter, simpler, more straightforward if necessary. Consider a situation in which someone said something short in a language you don’t understand. you can repeat the words but still have no idea what they meant. They will even say you got it right if you ask them.
2. Ask for a diagram. Draw a quick picture, stick figures and arrows can be very effective. Or use mind mapping or a flow diagram. Don’t worry about getting the diagram perfect. The purpose is improving communication and understanding, that’s all.
3. Ask for an example.
4. End with, “Did I get that right or what did I get wrong?”
I’m a TED fanatic. Ideas worth spreading. The short presentations are on such a myriad of subjects that anyone can find their interest. Or they can find a new interest.
In order to give a short presentation the presenter must have culled well. What is left gets to the point quickly and clearly.
When someone sends me an hour long video, a rambling interview, or a lengthy seminar I want to scream at them, “give me the summary, what are your main points?” Use a mind map and get your topic down to its essence, it’s key words, it’s key phrases, what you most want others to take away.
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Da Vinci was a genius in part because he was brilliant in both science and art. Everyone can tap into both sides of their brain. Everyone can work to bring out the side less used (only an analogy) or bring together a team that excels in the areas not usually covered.
Publishing a book means overcoming a lot of hurdles, not just getting the book written. Two years to write the book then at least two months of agonizing back and forth editing and updating and editing again and updating again, etc. etc. etc. But it is all worth it when you see the finished product. And it is even more worth it when someone writes and says how much they liked or learned from your book. So I hope that if and when you read my new book, Business, Brains & B.S., you will let me know.