Most people don't use their best asset - their brain. Your brain loves looking for answers. It loves being given a project, looking for answers and solving problems. The best way to activate the brain is to ask the right questions, but is your brain getting the right questions?
Questions such as "Why aren't I successful?" and "Why aren't I happy?" are not usually borne out of curiosity, whereas "What would make me more successful?" and "How do I go about making myself happy?" will lead your brain to explore and lead to a more genuine search for answers. Remember, the better the question, the better the answer.
Once the right question has been posed, then curiosity will lead to thinking, planning, observing, information gathering, acting, reflecting and review. Curiosity can be a powerful business tool and give you a competitive edge.
At Overells, we have regular meetings which cover a range of topics within our business. Everyone is encouraged to question how we do things and suggest improvements for any part of our business – from simple 'tips & tricks' that we discover while preparing accounts and tax returns through to how our website looks and functions. We do this by having an agenda which is designed to cover most aspects of our business and afford the time to allow everyone to be creative.
But why rely upon yourself (as a business owner/ manager) for all the questions? Every employee has the ability to be curious, innovative and in the right environment, willing to take risks. However, in most work situations, they will be discouraged to do so.
Managers may feel challenged or intimidated if they perceive that their ability, knowledge or authority is being questioned. Curiosity can be killed in many ways:
- concern about achievement rather than learning
- taking things too personally
The successful business focuses on possibilities and opportunities which are borne out of curiosity. Creating a work environment that is open to questions can lead to:
- more complete overview of systems and their relationships
- planning more effective strategies
- better work relationships and morale
- increased ability to respond rather than react
- more possibilities and opportunities
It's best to develop the ability to see things from a beginner's mind - a mind that has not been too influenced by preconceived beliefs and assumptions. Generally, people don't like change. We'd rather reinforce what we know even if we have a 'gut-feeling' that it could be improved or changed completely.
The best way to be a 'beginner' is by 'opening your mind' - being intrigued, fascinated and interested. You will also need to learn to truly listen, don't jump to conclusions and investigate more - don't just follow one possible answer, consider all options available with a similar objectivity and be persistent. Be willing to change your mind and have your points of view and beliefs challenged and enjoy the process!
Most of us aren't particularly good at asking questions, let alone the right ones. But most of us have a 'gut-feeling' that things could be better.
Asking the right questions is a skill that can be developed - take away the self doubt, ask the question, and make sure you act upon it!