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The 3 arenas of curiosity

Everybody is curious sometimes, some are curious all the time.

When we say a child is curious, we refer to their incessant behaviour in exploring the world around them and their never tiring ability to engage with positive stimuli. A curious adult is still interested in all sorts of stimuli e.g. reacting to the beep of an online message, yet curious adults are also often referred to as people (like e.g. Thomas Edison) who are 'bitten' by a problem and don't want to rest until they have solved. Solving this problem can take years and always comes with a deep drive and discipline. These two examples of a child and of Edison already proves that there are different dimensions to curiosity. Indeed there are: one can be curious about the world, about others and even about oneself.

Curiosity about the world

This refers to our natural interest or drive to understand the world and the environment around us. Both examples above refer to this category. It is a muscle recognised in all of us as the degree to which we thrive on novelty outside of us. The better we are at this, the more we explore, innovate, learn and problem solve. We engage in this type of curiosity by reading, asking questions, browsing. For professionals, this type of curiosity refers to the natural interest people have in unprompted deep interest and learning about their company strategy, about their industry, their competition and their customers. One often quoted example is that Bill Gates reads 5 hours of per week: this habit falls in this category.

Curiosity about others

(also referred to as social or empathic curiosity): this type of curiosity is interested in people: people we know as well as perfect strangers. It refers to our natural level of openness towards others, their thoughts and feelings. It also refers to our ability for empathy i.e. to be able to put ourselves in their shoes. If done well, this type of curiosity leads to  empathy, connectedness, relatedness and appreciation of a fellow human being. For professionals, social curiosity refers to a genuine interest to understand the point of view of her/his colleague, a tendency to find common ground with people, a natural openness to not shy away from interpersonal challenges. We all know people who are good at this. 

Curiosity about ourselves

This is arguably the most difficult one as it refers to our inner selves. It is the desire to understand deeper drivers, beliefs and be in tune with why we do/think the way we do/think. It is recognised as the degree of our ability to engage in intensive self-reflection and our ability to be self-aware about our strengths, beliefs, purpose and values (including an interest in our limiting beliefs and blindspots). Rational as we are, we often describe ourselves as being good at this. Research however has found that only 10-15% of adults are good at this. The better we are at this, the more we are calm, self-aware, resilient, grounded, content and authentic. Methods to hone this dimension are intensive self-reflection, mindfulness, meditation and e.g. coaching conversations.


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