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3 Ways to Become a More Inquisitive Leader

“Cats are inquisitive but hate to admit it.” - Mason Cooley

There’s an old saying that says “Curiosity killed the cat,” though it may have killed the cat, the inquisitiveness of many entrepreneurial inventors has changed the world for the better many times over and still do.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines inquisitive as:

  1. given to examination or investigation

  2. inclined to ask questions

Every generation benefits from the inquisitive minds of men and women who persistently ask questions, examine, and investigate the possibilities. How different the world is today because of inquisitive minds as Steve Jobs (Apple), Amanda Jones (vacuum canning process for preserving food), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Stephanie Kwolek (Kevlar) Jeff Bezos (Amazon).

Inquisitive people have a contagious passion for learning and exploring possibilities. The most often asked question by inquisitive minds is “why?”

Most inventors are lifelong learners, their desire to ask and know why things are the way they are, and can they be improved drives their creativity.

A Birdseye View of the Food Industry

Recently I was watching the biography of inventor/businessman Clarence Birdseye of frozen food fame. Birdseye was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1886. He’s the first to discover how to flash freeze food, by 1925 his "Quick Freeze Machine" as it’s commonly known revolutionized the food industry and the world.

While on a fur-trading expedition in the Arctic, Birdseye observes the people living there “quick freezing” their food in the winter. Utilizing ice, wind, and artic temperatures, they were instantly freezing the fish they were catching preserving the freshness until they were ready to eat them. Birdseye considered how the same process could work on other foods, including fresh vegetables.

Birdseye’s "Quick Freeze Machine" worked not only on fish but, fruit and vegetables as well. Securing investors, he started the General Seafood Corporation in 1924. By the 1940’s Birdseye, already experienced in dehydrating food, was utilizing refrigerated boxcars to transport his products nation-wide.

Clarence Birdseye passed away in 1956, at the time of his death the frozen food industry was becoming a billion-dollar industry, his lifelong inquisitiveness earned him approximately 300 patents, the grocery-store freezer display cases being one of them. You don’t have to be an inventor to have an inquisitive mind.

Walt Disney says, “I happen to be kind of an inquisitive guy, and when I see things I don't like, I start thinking, why do they have to be like this and how can I improve them?”

Here are three ways to help you become a more inquisitive leader.

1. Be Confident in Your Ability to Discover Why

Don’t entertain self-limiting beliefs; choose to practice challenging the limits of what you’re believing about yourself. Jim Rohn says, “if you don’t like how things are change it, you’re not a tree.”

It isn’t a lack of capacity that limits people; it’s not willing to challenge their beliefs about their potential that does. Seeing the world as we are and not as it is, hinders more people than any outward adversity they face.

The difference between inquisitive people and people who believe they cannot change is understanding the power behind discovering “why. The wisdom and knowledge necessary for personal development, come to all who passionately pursue them. You must believe in the power of asking “why” and “why not.”

2. Always Play the Honest Inquirer

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” - Peter Drucker

Having the persistence of a childlike curiosity unlocks the answers to a multitude of questions. Children tend to keep asking questions until they receive an answer that satisfies them. Children are honest inquirers, not embarrassed by the vulnerability of ignorance. Honest inquirers are more concerned with satisfying their curiosity than the possibility of people thinking less of them for asking many questions. Getting over the fear of being looked upon as “less than,” begins when your desire to be empowered outweighs your desire to impress. Never be embarrassed to ask questions until you receive satisfactory answers.

3. Train Yourself to be Inquisitive

Lifelong learners have naturally inquisitive minds, this does not mean that you cannot train yourself to be inquisitive. Like lifelong learners, you can develop a passion for personal development. Lifelong learners are inquisitive and never satisfied with what they already know. They are always reading new books, articles, listening to others, learning new skills to be better tomorrow than they are today. People who pursue personal development are intentional thinkers. If a person isn’t learning from the successes and failures of others, it’s because they’ve chosen not to learn. Lifelong learners have inquisitive minds.

Intentional thinking is a learned discipline; it’s an invaluable investment in your future. You can develop a love for learning; it’s a choice. Taking some time to create, plan, and develop ideas is empowering because it enables you to shape your future. Anyone who’s benefited from researching subjects they needed to learn already has what’s required to be more inquisitive.

“I have no special talents I am only passionately curious”- Albert Einstein

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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