I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Curiosity killed the cat” it’s probably one of the more morbid cliches out there. Imagine, curiosity actually proving fatal to felines.
The phrase doesn’t actually spell out the fact that it was the cat’s own curiosity that did him in. Perhaps it is a human’s curiosity that puts the furball six-feet under. Kind of like every time you hear a bell ring, an angel gets its wings – every time a person asks “why?” a kitty keels-over.
The problem is, the world doesn’t ask enough questions. To my way of thinking, perhaps we ought to be killing a few more of these scared-of-questions-scaredy-cats.
Albert Einstein said “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” I’m not so sure it does. Too many raw theories are put forth (and accepted) as fact. General observations are accepted at face value, and instead of discovering our own individual and unique truths, we accept those that are handed to us without question (without question-ing.)
Maybe curiosity kills cats because our questioning skills aren’t well enough developed. Perhaps if we practiced more, and started ‘doing it right’, the poor little purring machines wouldn’t have to perish.
“Successful people ask better questions,
and as a result, they get better answers.”
~ Tony Robbins
Here are nine (one for each of the kitty’s curiosity-doomed lives) techniques for getting better at being curious:
1. Ask Why?
Why are things done (around the office, around the home, around the town) in the current manner?
2. What Happened?
Ask what happened to cause this process to be put into practice? (This is a natural follow-up to question #1) You’d be surprised at how many things that are part of the “company policy” simply because some guy back in 1883 tied up his horse outside the wrong saloon.
For instance, do you know the reason keyboards aren’t in alphabetical order? The QWERTY-style typewriter keys were put in this order because the early typewriters (with individual letter-arms that struck images on the sheet of paper) kept jamming when people typed too fast. The problem wasn’t solved by creating a way for the machines to react faster — it was solved by causing people to type sloooower.
3. Why Not?
Why not change the system/process/policy/etc.?
What problems could a sweeping change to the procedure cause?
What improvements would be made by the same sweeping change?
Who would be made happier (employees? managers? customers?)
Who would it piss off? (employees? managers? customers?)
WHY are product sales poor? Because the price is too high.
WHY is the price too high? manufacturing is too expensive.
WHY? Because multiple quality assurance steps.
This example path leads us to an answer that can then become a new marketing strategy (yes the product costs more, but only because the company takes extra steps to ensure a no-fail policy, etc.)
5. And Then What?
Too many people stop questioning after they have what appears to be the “right” answer — but what’s the NEXT right answer? The have no idea just how close they’ve come to having an epiphany. It’s like they’ve brushed against a revolutionary …evolutionary… creative opportunity and passed it by. Don’t forget to uncover what comes AFTER the answer.
6. What’s It Mean?
When you get an answer to a question, ask what it means. And I mean that in the broadest sense. What does the answer mean to the company, its employees, its customers? What does it mean by way of definition? Do we all think this answer means the same thing, or are we defining its meaning differently? What does it mean to the way things are currently done? What does it mean to the future of the product? The future of the industry? What does it mean to YOU?
7. How Can We Improve?
How can we improve our process, our company, our product, ourselves? It doesn’t matter how good we are now, we need to get better. I know we’re talking ‘cats’ here, but did you know Sharks will die if they don’t continue to move? They will essentially suffocate if they don’t keep swimming. Did you know lightning bugs can only shine when they are moving forward? It’s the same with all our personal and professional efforts; if we’re not moving forward, we’re not going to appear very bright — and we might just die from boredom.
8. What Have We Learned?
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not making much of anything. There’s no possible way you can get through life without making a mistake or two (hundred). The successful folks are those that ask themselves what they’ve learned, and then apply that knowledge to future efforts. And it’s not as if you need to fail in order to learn something — ask the same question after a rousing success. What did you learn from a winning conclusion? What can you repeat for a successful sequel? What can you change in order to increase your level of success? What do you know now, that you didn’t know an hour ago. And if you said “nothing” you’re not even trying.
9. What’s Next?
When you’ve asked all the questions, it’s time to take action. Ask yourself this final question in order to begin the implmentation process. To plan strategy. To assign tasks. To schedule follow-up. You also ask this question upon completion of the project. When the project is done, the folders filed, and the trophy is on your wall — ask what’s next?
Save a Cat.
Be better at being curious.