Last year I did an event for a large manufacturing company in Wisconsin. As I do with all of my clients, I spoke with them beforehand to discuss their main goals for the engagement, which helps me capture the spirit of the event and how I might incorporate company-specific concepts into my content. This client had recently been pushing a motto among all their employees and wanted to know if I could tie it into our conversation. The motto:
Be Curious, Not Certain.
Short. Simple. Sweet. “No problem,” I said. The phrase actually fit well with a key message I often share, and I could immediately see a vision for how we could use that message to engage their workforce.
Since then I’ve thought often about their motto, and the more I let it marinate, the more I’m convinced that simple phrase captures the essence of what we need in today’s world.
People do some pretty amazing things. Every day, people are working to solve some unbelievably challenging problems and puzzles. We’re finding cures to previously devastating diseases. We’re creating new technologies our ancestors never even dreamed of. Earlier this month I showed someone who had never seen FaceTime how it works, and you could see their brain immediately explode in wonderment. People create amazing and awesome things!
And at the same time, in the midst of all this amazingness, we are somehow losing our ability to be curious. We’ve fallen victim to the spoils of technology, and it has eaten away at our curiosity about one another. You can see this play out everyday on television, on social media and in the depths of the online world. We make snap judgments about people based on what we see on Facebook. Everyone’s voice is being amplified, but we aren’t curious enough to listen intently. Instead of looking deeply at things, we gravitate toward curated sources which appeal to our existing narrative and don’t scratch the surface of true curiosity.
It’s this lack of curiosity which breeds certainty – or more accurately, false certainty. The Internet has made it easier to find information and share ideas, but it also makes it easier to put everyone into neat and tidy boxes, and people don’t fit into neat and tidy boxes. Not all Millennials are tech-savvy, Instagram-posting narcissists who expect to be CEO after 6 weeks on the job. Not all Baby Boomers are terrified of change and just trying to coast until retirement. Not all Democrats or Republicans are this. Not all women or men are that. Some people are those things, yes! But you don’t get to be certain of that until you’re curious enough to engage individuals in genuine, open conversation.
I’m committed to making Be Curious, Not Certain my personal mantra in life. I hope you’ll join me and challenge yourself to live in a world of curiosity instead of certainty. When we succeed, I promise the world is going to be a better and more positive place than when we started.