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  • Writer's pictureSterling Grey

Curiosity as the New Boardroom Powerhouse: Why It Trumps Pedigree Every Time

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

In a rapidly evolving business landscape, the most successful leaders are those who question the status quo, seek new knowledge, and are relentless in their pursuit of innovation. Curiosity once considered a soft skill, is now the new boardroom powerhouse, consistently outshining the traditional pedigree.

The Catalyst of Innovation: Curiosity is the mother of innovation. It is the driving force behind the ability to challenge existing business models and explore new possibilities. This relentless quest to ask, 'What if' and 'Why not' has birthed industry giants and disrupted complacent markets. Companies like Apple and Tesla, led by inquisitively spirited leaders, have transformed their sectors by not just answering questions but by questioning the answers.

The Limitations of Pedigree: A stellar academic background or a resume boasting blue-chip company names no longer guarantees successful leadership. Pedigree, while impressive, often comes with a pre-packaged approach to problem-solving that can stifle creativity. Obtaining these accolades used to be a proxy for rigor and crystallized intellect (memorization). Defining skills born in an era of industrial revolution. Yesterday, genius lived in an individual's ability to perform computation. Our brains are the first computers.

Technology has eclipsed man's computational capacity. Today, what we have yet to outsource is man's curiosity. It is the curious mind that looks beyond the learned procedures to discover paths less traveled. We call them disruptors, innovators, geniuses.

Curiosity in Action: Leaders who foster a culture of curiosity empower their teams to think outside the box and propose unconventional solutions. For instance, Google's 20% time policy encouraged employees to spend time on passion projects, leading to innovations like AdSense and Gmail.

The Measurable Impact of Curiosity: Curiosity can be quantified and linked to tangible business outcomes. A survey conducted by Merck KGaA showed that curiosity among employees led to increased job satisfaction, motivation, and innovation. Moreover, PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey highlights that CEOs believe 'curiosity' is a critical leadership trait for the future.

Cultivating Curiosity in Leadership: Organizations looking to thrive in the future must actively search for and cultivate curiosity in their leaders. As you read my articles, you’ll know that psychometric assessment and analysis means that you can screen for these qualities. Either in the leaders you are inviting to join your organization or even the existing leaders potentially being aligned to guide business outcomes that will require creativity.

Back in 2010, the IBM 2010 Global CEO Study, which surveyed 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, cited that CEOs believe:

“More than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision — successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.”

You can cultivate curiosity and creativity by:

  • Influencing leaders to engage in continuous learning and development.

  • Rewarding inquisitive thinking and challenging assumptions.

  • Creating an environment where asking questions is not only accepted but expected.

The Competitive Edge of the Curious Leader: Curiosity equips leaders with the ability to navigate through uncertainty and complexity. A leader’s intellectual curiosity, openness to new experiences, and inquisitiveness about cross-disciplinary information can lead to more adaptive and proactive strategies, giving their companies a competitive edge.

Conclusion: The boardrooms that will lead the next generation of successful enterprises are those that value the spark of curiosity over the laurels of pedigree. It is time for organizations to embrace and encourage the naturally inquisitive nature of their leaders and to recognize curiosity not as a mere trait but as a fundamental business asset.

Call to Action: If you or your organization want to learn how you can find and cultivate leaders with greater curiosity, give me a shout!

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