The word “curiosity” seems to be appearing increasingly frequently in the world of business. Whether it is previous guest CEO Vas Narasimham exhorting the 125,000 associates of Novartis to be curious, inspired and unbossed; the name given to the Mars rover (“curiosity”); or the fact that I like to start an exploratory conversation with a podcast guest or a coaching client with the phrase (“I’m curious”), I thought it would be of interest and value to understand more about the topic of curiosity.
Someone with a very distinctive perspective on the topic is Professor Nick Thomas, author of a recent book entitled “The Return Of Curiosity,” an anthropologist and historian who has been Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge since 2006.
Regular listeners of my podcasts will recognize the theme of Museums from previous episodes. I believe that the topic of museums and how they work is relevant for business leaders for several reasons. It’s not just because I live in a city that is home to over 40 museums, and which promotes itself to tourists as the city of museums, although the availability bias clearly plays a role. But I do recongnise, as do some of my clients, that museums can offer valuable insights to leaders looking for fresh, diverse perspectives on topics they are wrestling with.
In my conversation with Nick, we explore why this is the case: why is a visit to a museum unique and different from other cultural activities? As leaders, we encounter the unknown on an increasingly regular basis: it could be an unknown competitor, an unknown technology. And how we choose to respond to this encounter, the choices we make, will impact and shape our future and potentially that of our business and organization.
So while Museums might not be something we give a lot of thought to in the workplace, nonetheless they offer safe environments to question the status quo, to challenge our biases, and to look for innovative solutions to our most pressing business challenges.