4 Curiosity Types That Will Help Your Team Solve Problems in the Crisis

May 28, 2020

4 Curiosity Types That Will Help Your Team Solve Problems in the Crisis

We’re in the midst of massive change, with everything from our work environment to world economies shifting daily. This pivotal time in history calls for curiosity. Curiosity will help get us through this crisis with fresh ideas for the new challenges we’re facing.

As people continue to turn to online learning to adapt, many people are investing in this highly strategic skill. While all levels within the organization can benefit from it, we are seeing managers watch these courses at higher rates than all other levels within the organization, which may mean they know something the rest of us are just now absorbing. Curiosity can be a game changer to grow your career.

“Only curiosity inspires the questions that generate the answers we don't yet have access to. Without curiosity new answers will cease to exist,” says Becki Saltzman in Applied Curiosity.

Compared to “free-range curiosity,” which can be described as a childlike sense of wonder, applied curiosity is about using curiosity to solve specific problems. This is a vital skill that companies will rely on as they explore new ways to engage with customers and teams, and make sense of this new world of work.

We’re all curious in different ways. Hone your leadership and management strategy by understanding these four curiosity types to identify your own strengths and manage teams in a way that inspires innovative thinking.

Learn more about curiosity in the course “Applied Curiosity.”

#1 The Adventurer

The first curiosity type is someone whose curiosity stems from a sense of adventure. Think of Amelia Earhart, who said “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Adventurers are daring and even thrill-seeking. They’re eager to have uncommon experiences and engage with different types of people and cultures. 

Adventurers will ask questions like: 

  • Who should we meet with and what can we ask them? 

  • Where can we go to experience greater insights? 

  • What can we learn by considering a viewpoint different from our own?

  • What didn’t work—or even: what did work—that you would do differently?

According to Saltzman, one reason projects fail is because we don’t “curiously excavate the debris of our failure.” We move on too quickly and “cover up the exact useful artifacts we should be learning from.”

Don’t make that mistake as a manager. Instead, use what you know about the curiosity types to uncover insight from your teams.

Leadership and management tactic: For example, Adventurers want to feel challenged. Encourage them to bring more diverse thinking to the table in order to shake up routine ways of thinking.

#2 The Thinker

The second curiosity type is characterized by Aristotle’s quote: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

The Thinker is someone who is viewed as a philosopher. They’re a thought leader who deeply considers a wide range of topics, and is always seeking something interesting to think about. 

The Thinkers on your team may ask: 

  • What worked, and how can we replicate that in the future? 

  • What ideas do we now have because of what didn’t work? 

  • How was our thinking flawed?

  • Is there another approach we can use?

Leadership and management tactic: Task your Thinkers with capturing ideas and researching new approaches. While the rest of the team is deep in the logistics of an idea, Thinkers can help everyone step back and offer new ways to think about the problem.

#3 The Observer

The Observer is like Leonardo da Vinci: viewed as renaissance, with many talents or areas of knowledge. They’re keenly observant, able to notice things that others may miss. 

Observers will ask questions like: 

  • What did we not take into consideration? 

  • What did we miss that others (peers, competitors, teams, industry leaders) did see?

  • What lessons can we learn that we would not have learned if this project was more successful? 

  • What information did we rely on that was incorrect?

Leadership and management tactic: While you or your team may overlook a critical piece of information or hurdle, you can count on the Observer to explore deeper, expose the team’s blind spots, and discover something new. 

#4 The Solver

As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The Solver is like Einstein, able to identify problems and find solutions that aren’t obvious to everyone else. Often, this plays out in scientific or technical advancements. 

Solvers will ask: 

  • What did we falsely assume? 

  • What exactly did not work? 

  • How did we assess this problem incorrectly? 

Leadership and management tactic: As a project leader, empower your Solvers to speak up and question assumptions. 

Unlike other personality assessments like Myers-Briggs, "your curiosity type isn’t fixed," says Saltzman. Everyone has the ability to be curious in multiple ways. 

Know your default type, and then reach beyond it. As you embrace traits from other curiosity types, you’ll be well prepared to take on the world’s—or at least your team’s—most pressing challenges.

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