Curiosity – The First Step to Understanding the World

2/11/2014

I never did anything more than observe, but in doing so I gained much. What did that smile mean between the older woman and the younger one? Was this a mother and daughter, happy to have spent time with each other? What could I learn about respect from how everyone surrounded the older male passenger in the wheelchair, and how he was cared for and surrounded by helpers? And when I watched the teenagers chatting in Arabic but posting photo after photo to Instagram, how much could I see of my own three children in the faces of this family from another part of the world?

In our profession, we call this close observation of others’ cultural interactions Cultural Due Diligence, and we talk about it as a useful tool for being more effective when working across cultures. At the end of the day, though, it really is just about being curious, open-minded and ready to learn. So many organizations focus on “learning agility,” and spend huge amounts of time and energy convincing their employees to be active and enthusiastic learners. To me, just taking a moment each day to look for something or someone different is an easy way to get your “agility workout” – by realizing that difference is interesting and by being curious about what difference means, we put ourselves into a space where we don’t as easily fall back on our standard way of explaining away what we are experiencing. Instead, we choose to take a moment to reflect and see something in a different way.

Naturally, and without trying too hard, we find ourselves starting down the road of developing a global mindset – embedded in the simple and magical act of being curious about the world.

And who knows, you might even enjoy your next wait in the airport security line.

David Lange