One of the challenges of having decades of experience is it’s easy to become complacent and think you’ve seen it before. It is easy to jump to conclusions, so it’s important to remain open-minded and to look for fresh perspectives.
Here are some of my favourite ways to try and stay curious:
A playful spirit
Playing games is seen as a childish activity, but it requires the ability to learn and adapt. It creates a safe environment in which to make mistakes, which in turn gives permission to try more outlandish or unexpected courses of action. Taking some of this into the real world is great for being brave about trying something new and how to learn and adapt quickly.
Seek out fresh perspectives
We already have a natural bias to think others see the world the same as ourselves and the world of social media magnifies that. Sadly this often creates a highly divisive ‘us and them’ situation, making it harder to understand those perspectives we don’t share.
However, there is a huge amount of value in finding a way to build links with those who have different experiences and different perspectives. By concentrating on the things we have in common, we can open ourselves up to conversations that challenge our thinking. No one needs to change their mind, but seeing how others got to their perspective builds empathy and broadens our own understanding.
I love to travel, but sometimes doing unfamiliar things can be scary. Whether we are going to new places or standing up and giving a presentation, doing something we find challenging is a great way to prove to ourselves that we are capable of more than we realise. Broadening our horizons, often while actually having fun, because there’s a buzz in realising we did it!
I’ve yet to succeed in curing my fear of heights this way, but I’ve still managed to walk through the Amazon canopy bridge walk and zipline at Victoria Falls. So it’s a great adventure to not let my fears hold me back.
One of the things I did to survive lockdown while staring at very familiar walls was to play games that needed me to use my imagination. Playing tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons (at least the way I like to play it) is a group storytelling experience. You get to create a character and need to think about how their perspective may differ from yours or the other players and then you’re presented with a series of challenges that you look for interesting ways to solve. Finding a fun story together with your friends is a great way to collaborate and deal with the unexpected.
I started this by talking about how it’s easy to jump to a conclusion if you feel you’ve seen the problem before. A way to challenge those assumptions is by providing yourself with new experiences, whether it’s feeding llamas or fighting dragons. Learning something is a great reminder that there is always something new for us, be it a different language, a musical instrument or a crafting hobby.
How does that help at work?
Your day job might not always offer opportunities to explore imaginary worlds, but it can offer possibilities for collaboration and work with different perspectives. Trying new approaches can lead to better problem-solving and learning faster and not fearing mistakes are all ways to improve innovation. I hope we can all stay curious together.