Let me begin by hypothesizing about your current work. If you’re a specialist, it’s highly likely that the crushing majority of your time is spent making what’s already in place at your organization more effective. You have a long list of tasks that are relatively routine, and you strive to optimize processes that you already know like the back of your hand. You often ask yourself, “How can I do this faster and make it more profitable?”
If you’re a manager, you may not have a list of tasks, but you certainly have a recipe book of methodologies with plenty of dog-eared pages. Quarterly meetings with employees, Excel reports, weekly follow ups, and so on and so forth.
In either case, you are so swamped that you simply have no time left to explore, be curious, and ask yourself “Why am I doing this? Is it still relevant? Will it still be relevant in 5 years?”
If you’re happy with the way things are now—which is perfectly commendable—this isn’t the article for you. If, however, you feel your job is missing a little je ne sais quoi, or you are no longer doing what you were hired for, or you haven’t been getting the promotions you’ve been expecting… let me give you two reasons to be curious in 2022.
The difference between a rebel and a troublemaker
Once upon a time, in the business world, curiosity was a virtue reserved for members of senior management, the board of directors, or expert consultants. Lower down in the hierarchical pyramid, workers had to execute what had been created by the top tiers without asking questions. Anyone who did not follow this was considered a troublemaker. This is what’s known as top-down leadership.
With the appearance of globalization and digitization, the explosion of specializations, and fusion/acquisition movements, this approach no longer works. At the very least, companies that practice this leadership style as if it’s still the 1990s will have a very hard time to adapt. The reality is that a member of senior management no longer has much visibility across the organization and is too busy to have a monopoly on curiosity. They need you to be curious, too. The evolution of an organization as well as its ability to innovate depends on it.
Take a step back, question what you’re doing and what your colleagues are doing, and note how you interact with your department. Be curious—be a rebel with a cause.
You’ll quickly realize that it’s high time to break certain rules that govern your work, because no one in your organization remembers why they were put there in the first place. They are not adapted for today’s world. And if you don’t play the role of rebel, you’re not enabling your team or yourself to build something new in its place—something more effective, fluid, and transparent.
The difference between expertise and experimentation
The further you advance in your career, the more experience you’ll gain, which will have an impact on your level of expertise in your field. This has many benefits: it enables you to make decisions faster, you’re more credible, and you will be earning a salary that reflects your worth.
That said, there’s also a downside to this, which has been proven in multiple studies. The more expertise you gain, the more you lose your sense of experimentation, and the less likely you are to change your behaviour. Even if it’s not your intention, you may be less open to hearing others’ opinions, and you believe you have all the answers. You’ll become fed up of taking on all the challenges and projects that fit into a mold of your own, slow making. In other words, you’re going to focus on what you already know instead of what you still have left to learn. You’re going to stop being curious.
Yet the world around you will never stop evolving. Even if it feels counterintuitive, if you’re not constantly evolving your own expertise, you may lose your competitive edge—and end up obsolete.
To be curious is also about maintaining intellectual humility throughout your career. Keep asking questions, even if you think you know the answers. Continue to see things from new and different angles. Take a moment to become a novice again!
Today more than ever, you have the right to be curious, rebellious, and experiment.
Happy 2022 to you!