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Fostering Curiosity in Leadership - Approaches for a Divided World


Man and woman holding half earth globe
Man and woman holding half earth globe

Introduction

In my experience, today's leadership requires bridging gaps in a world where opinions often clash. With social media sharpening differences and sidelining moderate views, curiosity risks declining within organisational echo chambers.


Yet, for an organisation to grow, I believe it's vital to approach things from different angles, question assumptions, and respect others' views. Leaders are key in shifting discussions from heated arguments to meaningful conversations seeking interest and understanding.


This article reveals how I have seen the nurturing of a culture of curiosity counter hostility, boosting adaptability and excellence in uncertain times. I'll share practical methods I've found that spark curiosity, particularly in today's divided workplace.


By promoting genuine, two-way questioning across leadership, teams can tap into diverse human experiences vital for unity in a fragmented world. Such open dialogue is where societal healing begins.


Tribalism in a Fractured World

In my work, I've often seen polarisation not just in politics but also in corporate life. From experience driving organisational change, understanding the deep-rooted psychological factors remains key to success.


I've found that people naturally seek security and belonging, which can become unsettled by technological, economic, and demographic shifts. Individuals frequently cling to simplistic "us vs. them" narratives, falsely promising safety when the familiar unravels.


Similarly, when companies face new threats or restructure, a combative mood can take over once united teams if there's no safe space. Without safety, long-time colleagues might start to distrust each other, spreading harmful gossip about leadership or other departments.


Left unchecked, such negativity can severely impact integrity, performance, and mental health. However, the same energy-driving division can also unite people. Leaders who reframe these reactions as anxiety rather than hate can defuse tension through inclusive curiosity, bringing diverse views into problem-solving.


Rediscovering the Joy of Asking Questions

To tackle this issue, we first need to understand what’s causing curiosity to fade in organisations based on my observations:


Cultural norms often discourage questioning and favour agreement, especially in efficiency-focused systems. Speaking up can lead to isolation or hinder career progression over time, discouraging critical thinking.


Online debates often devolve into cynical attacks using selective facts, making genuine discussions pointless. Exhausted by this negativity, employees retreat into like-minded groups where their views go unchallenged.


People increasingly link their identity to their beliefs, viewing debates as personal attacks. This perspective leads to defensive reactions instead of open discussions.


These dynamics create closed, conflict-prone mindsets. But reviving curiosity can help bridge these divides.


Pathways to Nurturing Curiosity

Reawakening curiosity starts with understanding it as a drive to uncover truths and fill gaps when faced with uncertainty. It’s linked to our innate desire to learn and find meaning.


While theory is informative, putting insights into practice counts most in my experience. Leaders often grasp curiosity's value but struggle to embody it, especially when teams get caught up in binary thinking.


Here are some strategies I've found useful for leaders seeking to spark curiosity throughout their organisations:


  1. Create safe spaces for open sharing where everyone's input is respected equally.

  2. Develop training for meeting facilitators to guide teams through collaborative analysis of decisions from various viewpoints.

  3. Reward well-researched alternative views to prevailing thoughts.

  4. Implement job shadowing across different teams to build empathy and understanding.

  5. Host structured debates on unanswered questions to stretch the imagination and bring teams together.


These habits counter insularity by continually expanding perspectives from what I've seen. Leaders can shift culture by actively participating and showing that these efforts are important priorities. Small, consistent changes can lead to big transformations over time.


The Benefits of Organisational Curiosity

Some leaders are hesitant to invest in curiosity, lacking direct ROI evidence. However, the benefits are immense and measurable based on my observations:


➔ Enhanced innovation and adaptability to rapidly changing situations.

➔ Stronger strategic planning considering diverse scenarios.

➔ Lower groupthink risks and oversight in decision-making.

➔ Increased knowledge sharing and collaboration, breaking down silos.

➔ Higher employee engagement, satisfaction, and mental health.

➔ Deeper wisdom in leadership for navigating complex situations.


More than operational edge, reviving curiosity can mend divided societies through personal connections – the very fabric of a community. Technological skills alone can’t sufficiently meet the challenges we face at scale. But courageous, open-minded and open-hearted leadership offers a pathway forward this century.


The future is not predetermined but created step-by-step through our daily actions - leading by example with empathy, reason and vision while releasing past prejudices. Here, we find the foundation for renewed hope.


About the Author

Giles Lindsay is a technology executive, business agility coach, and CEO of Agile Delta Consulting Limited. Giles has a track record in driving digital transformation and technological leadership. He has adeptly scaled high-performing delivery teams across various industries, from nimble startups to leading enterprises. His roles, from CTO or CIO to visionary change agent, have always centred on defining overarching technology strategies and aligning them with organisational objectives.


Giles is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (FBCS), and The Institution of Analysts & Programmers (FIAP). His leadership across the UK and global technology companies has consistently fostered innovation, growth, and adept stakeholder management. With a unique ability to demystify intricate technical concepts, he’s enabled better ways of working across organisations.


Giles’ commitment extends to the literary realm with his forthcoming book: “Clearly Agile: A Leadership Guide to Business Agility”. This comprehensive guide focuses on embracing Agile principles to effect transformative change in organisations. An ardent advocate for continuous improvement and innovation, Giles is unwaveringly dedicated to creating a business world that prioritises value, inclusivity, and societal advancement.


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