Sometimes I am asked, “of all the skills associated with global leadership, which one is the most important?” When I answer this question, I do so by first giving a caveat: “Research studies, to date, don’t give a definitive answer to that question yet,” but, some scholars believe that curiosity is the most critical skill.
They argue that it is the engine that drives all the other abilities associated with global leadership; without curiosity, there would be no desire to develop relationships or understanding of others who are culturally different.
Can You Build Your Curiosity?
The answer is, yes, but it requires daily work. Just like getting in shape physically, you have to exercise your curiosity daily.
While there are a variety of things you can do to enhance your curiosity, I have two ways to get started:
1. Take up reading as a hobby
Read a book that has absolutely nothing to do with your profession, expertise, hobbies, and intellectual preferences. For most business people, that might include books about Bonsai gardening, beekeeping, or cartography.
There is something about reading that requires more cognitive and emotional work compared to passively observing content. Read for at least 15 minutes every day. Look for books where a skilled author “translates” the dynamics of the topic for readers who have no background knowledge of it.
2. Deep dive into a hobby
The second approach is somewhat similar to the first, but instead begins with selecting one of your hobbies, interests, or preferences, say sports, for example.
Likely, there are only a few sports that you enjoy watching, following as a fan, or participating in. Now, take that interest in sports, and select a sport that you know nothing about (perhaps, sumo wrestling) and read and study it for 15 minutes a day.
Have the goal to become expert enough in the sport that if you sat next to a Japanese businessperson on a business trip to Tokyo, you could engage in an informed conversation about sumo and ask thoughtful questions about it. There are numerous books written by experts who “translate” the sport for readers who know nothing about it.
Doing either of these two practices forces you to learn about things you hadn’t planned on, which essentially exercises your curiosity muscle. You might find that once you embark on this venture that you will look forward to those 15 minutes each day of getting outside your comfort zone and broadening the view of the world around you.