Being curious

By Tom Dowd | Jul 14, 2016

When a colleague of mine initially started publishing a required report each day, he would get regular questions about it. As time passed, the number of questions subsided. He figured the report had run its course, but he was asked to keep producing it for no reason except that it had always been done that way. He cleverly added a box on the report that read, “Space for Rent.” Over a year, not one person questioned it or even commented on it. He changed the frequency of sending the report to weekly before eventually stopping — and no one questioned it.

Don’t accept that “It’s always been that way.” Let’s take a trip back to our childhood. Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? OK, let’s keep the last one out of it. The point is to get back to the natural childhood curiosity that many of us grew out of. As important as routines are for us to maintain stability in our day, when was the last time you brought your natural curiosity to work? Routines are only as good as our ability to understand their value.

Why is this report important to read each day? What am I gaining by attending this meeting if my peer is already there and can report back? Why am I working late? Is it because real work needs to be done, or is it because I’m trying to impress someone? The answers to these real questions can serve to help you find pockets of wasted time. There may be opportunities for collaboration, teamwork, or even just stopping a practice that is no longer effective.

It’s time to be a curious child again. Starting today, question the whys to what you’re doing. Why do I need to travel to some meetings when I can be just as productive over the phone? Why have I allowed junk mail to clutter my inbox as opposed to unsubscribing? There are many questions that can and should be asked. You may find that the answers confirm that a particular task does indeed add value to the work you’re doing. That’s a good thing. Keep doing that task. What you’re looking for are the pockets of unproductive time that you can eliminate. You might surprise yourself and your co-workers with more time to concentrate on the more important tasks.

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