An Employee Workshop for Aspiring Experts

Unconventional Workshop 6

Foster Curiosity

Individual work-process 1

1) Foster curiosity
2) Initiate activity
3) Gain relevant information
4) Discover possibilities
5) Strategize
6) Commit to a project
7) Create ideas
8) Realize ideas
9) Test ideas, find success or failure
10) Use failure as a platform for new and better ideas
11) Repeat part or all of the process
12) Eventually, find achievement
Bonus – Ultimately, gain some level of mastery

Have curiosity, control curiosity and feed curiosity.

The curious child
When we were children, we were curious about everything. If we spotted a caterpillar, it would consume the next half hour of our day. By the time we reached high school, the mandatory lessons within the education system had us tasting a different flavor. Instead of being a soft drink that we crave, learning would often seem more like a bitter medicine that we had to swallow quickly and hope to keep down. With a heavy work load, the inspiration for curiosity got buried underneath required books and half-finished papers. For the most part, our grades reflected our ability to quickly ingest large amounts of information and hold onto it long enough to reach the exam. Beyond the work that required a lot of memorization, creating gradable bodies of work was another part of our schooling. With these assignments, the deadlines would always come faster than the good ideas.

In school, wouldn’t it have be nice if our studies kept pace with our curiosities and our curiosities followed our studies? Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had more time to ponder possibilities? To ponder ways in which past events and resulting achievements could shape our lives?

The productive adult
When we finish our required education and the original commitments we make to our continued education, we usually transition into a work environment. In one way or another, contribute to the actual production of goods and/or services, to be sold into the marketplace. This is a positive transition, no longer ingesting knowledge for the general purpose of learning, but using hard earned knowledge for the purpose of being productive. Being productive merits compensation. Being productive finances our lives. Being productive makes us independent.

Within a work environment, we still need to learn. The more complex the work the more continued learning will be required. Learning is a little more tricky within a career, as we are on-the-clock and ultimately responsible for productivity. Training within a career includes formal company training and on-the-job training. Sometimes, on-the-job training is more baptism by fire; where doing work and learning happen at the exact same time, for better or worse. When a company calculates employee compensation and position productivity, they do it over the long run. They may have flexibility that will account for a learning curve, however, they rarely factor in time for learning over the long haul. It is up to workers to find time to continuously learn; even if it needs to happen after hours.

Where did the child go?
Somehow, we make it through a formal education and we find ourselves in a career; but what happened to that curious child? The curious child is still inside of us and it is up to us to make sure that he or she has time to come out and play. As adults, we need to spark our own curiosity and use it to motivate continued learning and accelerate success within our careers. Curiosity can help us grasp broad, focused and conceptual understanding within any given topic; well beyond trivia and independent facts. Curiosity can help us with memorization and retention.

Curiosity within the context of the individual work-process:
• Curiosity makes us jump to activity.
• Curiosity craves relevant information.
• Curiosity opens us to possibilities.
• Curiosity explores possibilities with strategy.
• Curiosity bonds us to our projects.
• Curiosity inspires ideas.
• Curiosity motivates us to realize our ideas.
• Curiosity wants to see results, as ideas get tested.
• When we fail, curiosity wants to know the obstacles and how they can be overcome.

Most of our curiosity relates to events that have happened in the past or achievements that exist today, as a result of events that have happened in the past. Curiosity can use past events and achievements to discover possibilities for the future.

Foster curiosity to discover possibilities.

Curiosity and possibilities
Discovering possibilities is an important motivating factor within the individual work-process. Fostering intellectual curiosity is a starting point of the individual work-process. Most of our curiosities relate to events that have happened in the past or achievements that exist today, as a result of events that have happened in the past. Curiosity can use past events and achievements to discover possibilities for the future. Possibilities cannot be discovered without curiosity and curiosity does not result in achievement, if it does not see possibilities. Curiosity and possibilities are both vacuums that will draw us in if we let them. They work hand in hand.

The information vacuum

We all know the five Ws; who, what, when, where and why. There is also the ever important non-W; how. Curiosity does not simply want to see things in a superficial way, it wants to know the details. Organic objects, man made objects, historical events, non-historical events, concepts, psychology, facts, lies, truth, fiction, natural, supernatural. If we don’t know something about something, there is a vacuum of knowledge that we can explore.

Information is never someone else’s area of knowledge, for them to explore.
In an age when information is quickly at our fingertips, we cannot be hesitant visitors.

Now is the best time to be curious
In the age of the internet, now is the best time to be curious. Unconventional Experts use the internet to gain relevant information, as a part of their individual work-process. As far as curiosity, it is also perfect for feeding curiosity at lightning speed. As the internet answers questions, it can asks more questions than it answers. Whatever the subject matter, the internet will pique and re-pique curiosity with information and offerings that comes from around the globe. Certainly, the quality and truthfulness of the information is always in question, especially when influenced by goods, services or political trappings. With curiosity, we can question everything and find quality answers to our questions.

Curiosity makes us look at things in depth. It demands answer to questions and can create more questions than are answers.

Subject matter
If we were completely curious about everything around us, all of the time, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for exploration. We want to foster our curiosity, but we also want to foster curiosity in a way that is positive and productive for our lives. Going down a rabbit hole is a popular saying derived from Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. The saying can be positive or negative, depending on the context and the results of the adventure. Extreme hobbyists know full well that they can spend dozens of hours focused on one small part of a project, only to find limited advancement. Because curiosity leads us in various directions, we need to follow our curiosity wisely. There is the extreme of insufficient curiosity that can stand someone still. There is unbridled curiosity that can lose someone down an endless rabbit hole. It is up to us to have well balanced curiosity that keeps us moving in positive and productive directions.

Employees should foster curiosity to find career possibilities

Companies often provide employees with prepackaged information regarding their company history and their product and/or service offerings. These are usually given to new employees, during the on-boarding process. When one’s career is attached to an employer, it is important for them to foster curiosity and explore possibilities throughout their entire tenure. Here are some questions that an employee can asked about their employer, throughout their employment:

What specifically are the goods and/or services offered by the company?

Specifically, how do these goods and/or services benefit a user?

What problems do the goods and/or services solve?

What is the company history, as it relates to both goods and/or services?

What is the company history as it relates to its founding and corporate structure?

Over time, how did the company’s goods and/or services evolve?

Over time, how did the company evolve with its goods and/or services?

How are the company’s goods and/or services differentiated from their competitors?

What do the markets look like, were the goods and/or services are sold?

Who are the customers, buying the goods and/or services?

What do the customer buying habits look like?

What are the customer user experiences?

What does the customer feedback look like?

What competing companies share the marketplace?

How do customers see comparisons with the various goods and/or services within the marketplace?

What are the company’s sales and marketing programs, to sell their goods and/or services?

What differentiates company sales and marketing from their competitors?

What pricing and value differences are there within the marketplace?

Through what channels do purchases get fulfilled? Distributors? Resellers/retailers? OEM? Service providers? Direct to end users?

What are the partnering companies, that sell goods and/or services to the company?

What are the partnering companies, that sell goods and/or services along side the company, if any?

What does the company profitability look like?

What are the most profitable and least profitable goods and/or services?

What do all of the company departments do? Operations? Research and Development? Engineering? Testing? Production/manufacturing? Purchasing? Shipping and Receiving? Sales? Marketing? Customer support? Customer service? Human Resources? Finance? Others?

What does the leadership structure look like?

What do the workers do?

What do the experts do and how do their contributions advance the goods and/or services?

Work versus play
Characteristics of Unconventional Expert are shown within the complexity of their free time. This includes the way in which they approach their hobbies, arts, crafts, DIY home improvements, connoisseurship, inventions and/or disciplines. Some people show these characteristics within their free time, but do not benefit from them within their careers. Part of the challenge with curiosity is in fostering it for subject matter that will benefit one’s career. Some people are successful at turning their personal passion into their career, however, the more specialized human beings become, the more difficult it is to do this. Building passion around one’s career is usually much more predictable than building a career around one’s passion. How do you foster curiosity when it is related to work and not play? Discovering possibilities. The achievements we find within our free time activities can be similarly found within our careers and the enjoyment we get out of free time activities can be more satisfying when disconnected from our careers.

The romance to curiosity

From a practicality standpoint, one can purchase inexpensive low-end furniture that will provide quality, comfort and utility equal to expensive, high-end furniture. There is a point, however, where furniture becomes a piece of art, and the craftsmanship adds to its appreciation, desirability and, of course, price.

A high-end coffee table is different than a low-end coffee table, in ways that add to the price:

  • The type of wood used – high-end furniture will often use more attractive wood, which is usually more expensive. Mahogany is an example.
  • The size of the wood pieces used – high-end furniture will usually use wider and larger pieces of wood.
  • The finish of the wood – high-end furniture will often get finished multiple times, to show a deeper grain within the wood.
  • The tradition or story behind the style or design – high-end furniture will follow a history or design, which can add to the price.
  • The craftsmanship used to build it – skilled trades workers will generally have more hands-on involvement within the manufacturing process.

High-end furniture sales people are fully aware of the potential attraction to their offerings, even though it may take more then a glance. They romance their offerings by fulfilling curiosities that may be dormant in their customers. An interesting sales presentation to a curious customer is an important step in furthering interest. It is after the customer sees possibilities, and envisions the piece in their living area, when the sale can be closed.

Curiosity in scale
Scale model train hobbyists are some of the most interesting hobbyists on the planet. Their hobby brings out their inner child, with all of the associated curiosities attached. Go to a scale model train show and you will see the wheels spinning within the heads of the attendees. They look, they think, they look some more. They might pick up a train engine that is for sale. They will look at it, look at it longer and take an even closer look. What are they thinking about?

There will be appreciation, inspired by curiosities:
The physical construction of the scale model train engine.
The design.
The quality and weight.
The detail.
The condition.

There will be general curiosities:
Who manufactured it?
The history behind its design, as a scale model train.
The history behind its design; regarding the real train that it is modeled after.
The functionality.
The age.
The selling price.
The value, as it relates to the selling price.
The classifications regarding size, style and era.
The rarity.
The completeness.
The uniqueness, with identifiable differences that account for its rarity and/or desirability.

Personal curiosities, while considering a purchase:
How will this piece fit into my current collection?
Will I lose money when I sell it?
What additional parts does it need? Can I get them?
What repairs, maintenance or cleaning needs to be done?
How will it perform?
How will it look?

Looking at the above example, we see that curiosity and possibilities have close connections to hobbies.

Artificial Intelligence robots will not be curious
Artificial Intelligence is the next world altering technology. In the not-so-distant future, they will start replacing jobs. Where automation has already replaced jobs, they will be a more advanced type of automation that will be able to learn. If an AI robot is cooking hamburgers on a fryer and a new and wider hamburgers come into production, they will be able to adapt to that change and fit the larger burgers onto the fryer without overlapping them. They will not, however, be curious. They will not notice that the new hamburgers are sticking out of the smaller buns. They will not order larger buns. People who are able to build onto their human abilities will not be replaced by AI robots.

Trust your curiosity
We all run into obstacles. We all have to overcome obstacles. What are some of our first reactions when something breaks?

How do I fix the problem?
How much time is this going to take to fix the problem?
What am I going to do until I fix the problem?
How much money is this going to cost?

It is human nature to be reactive when the unexpected happens. Being reactive usually means to enact the first reactions, that come as a reflex, not necessarily the best reactions. Throw curiosity at a problem and the reactions will make more sense.

What broke?
What troubleshooting can I do to find out what specifically broke?
How exactly did it work before it broke?
How can I get it back to where it was before it broke?
How was it designed overall?
What information is there on the internet?
What can I do myself before spending money on the issue?

With some problems, there is an understandable aversion. We want nothing to do with the obstacle before us and our curiosity is as dormant as a bear in winter. In these situations, it is important to face fear and uncertainty with curiosity. Curiosity will initiate activity, activity will gain relevant information, information will shine light on the issue and reveal possibilities. The individual work-process will provide guidance.

Resolving curiosity is very satisfying. Trusting curiosity is the first step in trusting the individual work-process. Using process to overcome obstacles is a plan. Being reactive is a reaction.

Workshop 6 questions:

1) Name a website or social media platform that grabs your curiosity. How does it foster your curiosity? How does it resolve your curiosity?
2) Name a career or personal situation where multiple people had to overcome the same obstacle, some facing it with curiosity, others being reactive?
3) In overcoming the above obstacle, how did the behavior of the curious people compare to those of the reactive people?
4) Who was more successful in overcoming the above obstacle?

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