Home > NewsRelease > [WEBCAST] Cracking the Curiosity Code with Dr. Diane Hamilton
[WEBCAST] Cracking the Curiosity Code with Dr. Diane Hamilton
Ira S. Wolfe -- Success Performance Solutions Ira S. Wolfe -- Success Performance Solutions
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Lehigh Valley, PA
Saturday, August 15, 2020

Q&A with Dr. Diane Hamilton sponsored by Success Performance Solutions

Studies show that curiosity drives nearly every skill that shows up on every must-have job skill list, says Success Performance Solutions founder and workforce trends expert Ira S Wolfe. It is the DNA, the common thread, that connects many of the essential skills promoted for the modern worker: critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability, collaboration, and even empathy.

Curiosity it seems is the career currency of the day: necessary for staying relevant, for advancing your career, for keeping the robots at bay from taking your job. We simply can’t perform well or grow our skills without it. And yet parents, business leaders, and our current education system do every possible to immunize curiosity in our kids and workers. We talk about innovation, growth, and STEM but do everything possible to stifle it, says Dr. Diane Hamilton.

Dr. Diane was my guest on this Success Performance Solutions Crowdcast event. She discussed her curiosity research and the four curiosity killing factors she calls FATE. Here is an abridged and edited transcript of our conversation.

Join Googlization Nation Crack YOUR Curiosity Code HERE!
Cracking the Curiosity Code Diane Hamilton

“Fear holds them back. They don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to look unprepared. They don’t want to ask that “stupid” question in meetings. ”

Ira S Wolfe

Hey, good afternoon, everyone. My name is Ira Wolfe and welcome to another Success Performance Solutions webinar. Today, we’re going to be talking about Cracking the Curiosity Code. My guest today is Dr. Diane Hamilton. My company is Success Performance Solutions and we’re sponsoring today’s webcast.  Many of you probably know who we are but in case this is your first event – we specialize in pre-employment testing and leadership assessment tests.

Today, my wife and I are babysitting our 1-year old grandson.  If you want to watch curiosity in action, watch a 1 year old. There is nothing that he touches o sees that doesn’t interest him. He’s fascinated by fans, doors, knobs…even the screws that hold them in. He loves watching the words displayed on our Alexa device and his toes too. So if you want a lesson of what curiosity is, just observe a toddler. Unfortunately, as they grow up, many of us adults, 1-year-old screw it up.

And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today, Cracking The Curiosity Code. Let’s get started.

It’s great to see you Diane.

Dr Diane Hamilton

Thank you for having me here. Ira.

Ira S Wolfe

I don’t think there’s a single conversation that I’m in now right now that doesn’t include a mention about emotional intelligence, empathy, leadership, change management… a laundry list of critical skills everyone of us needs. The driving factor and common thread between all of them is curiosity. You can’t achieve greater any one of them without it. You can’t understand other people without it. You can’t walk in somebody else’s shoes if you’re not curious.

Dr Diane Hamilton

You bring up a great topic because I talk to so many people about this, baking a cake is how I describe how curiosity impacts things.

If you’re baking a cake, your end product is the cake. Right? And you mix all these ingredients like oil and eggs and water. You mix the ingredients, put them in a pan, then slide it into the oven and hope a cake comes out. But if you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get cake. Right?, So that’s the same thing in the workplace. All the things that Ira mentioned are all the things that companies want.

They want to develop empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence. They want to have critical thinking. They want all these soft skills. They want to have innovation, engagement, productivity, all the things that lead to money. Right. But nobody is turning on the oven. The magic switch is curiosity.

I also think that it’s all too easy to say the word curiosity. I think we hear that term a lot, but we don’t really think of what it means. What I try to get away is status quo thinking.  I know a lot of you are consultants who are watching this webcast and you’ve probably taken or given emotional intelligence tests, and DISC profiles, and all these assessments, which are great. But sometimes there’s this big, empty gap of not helping companies improve.

That’s what I tried to do when I created the Curiosity Code Index, because what I found was if you look out there in the world of research there are curiosity  assessments that tell you, if you’re curious or not. They will give you a range if you have it or not. But what happens if you are low, right? You are just stuck. And that is what I wanted to change. I wanted to tell you what’s stopping you and this is how to go forward.

Ira S Wolfe

So let’s go back a minute. You mentioned people do not always understand what curiosity is. What’s your definition? What is curiosity? A lot of people assume that it’s just asking questions. Justt asking a question doesn’t mean you’re curious.

Dr Diane Hamilton

I guess a lot of people think about it as the desire to explore and learn new things. You could say that. But to me, it’s going beyond the status quo way of things that we’ve always done. Asking why? Why not? It’s also providing solutions, being curious enough to say, hey, what would happen if we tried this? And it goes beyond just finding out how to get to the next level in Candy Crush or Fortnite or something like that.

It needs to be focused. It’s got to be about finding ways that we haven’t thought before. When I wrote my book, I listed some companies who did things that were outside the box kind of thinking. Th ere was a hospital in London where they were having a lot of people dying as they were transferring them from the E.R. into the recovery area. And they thought that everything we’ve ever done to try and fix this just doesn’t improve our results.

So a couple of the executives one night were watching a Formula One race car event and they saw the race car to take apart the Ferrari and put it back together in seven seconds. And I thought, well, wow, look at how they could do that. Why can’t we just move a patient from here to here without problems? So they had this team come in and look at what they were doing within the hospital and they found there were all kinds of things that these fresh eyes were able to give them suggestions.

Leaders must think outside of their cubicle, outside of their silo, outside of their industry is what I’d like to instill.

Ira S Wolfe

One of the things that I certainly remember growing up, despite good grades was I was curious. But at some point, you’re told, “stop asking so many questions.” The whole education system was based on: “listen to the teacher, listen, don’t talk.” It’s not the right time to ask a question. Even though I was a top student, there were some incidents and problems I had because I asked questions. In fact, I remember one class and one teacher. He was a new teacher, fresh out of college, a young guy. He had us read a book. I don’t remember the name, but it was somewhat controversial at the time.

So my classmate Donna and I started to ask questions. It won’t too long until we found ourselves sitting in the principal’s office and then outside the class in the hallway for the rest of the semester. I’m sure many of you have other examples where your curiosity got crushed by a parent, teacher, or boss. If you do have an example of this, put it in the chat chair, share them with the group.

We’re all curious. We all have this innate curiosity. It’s not that you have to teach people to be curious because curiosity is natural.

Dr Diane Hamilton

You bring up so many good points because we all start with this really high level, of curiosity, and as you mentioned, with your grandchild. We all have this high level of curiosity. And then around the age of five or so, it starts to go down dramatically. There are some great TED talks out there by Sir Ken Robinson and George Land. Many famous researchers out there that looked at curiosity such as Francesca Gino. She has been on my podcast show. She is from Harvard and has done a lot of research. And we look at how all these things are impacted by just going to school and having a teacher or a professor like you had. It just says kids are supposed to be seen and not heard.

There are all these other factors that can tie in. It was so interesting to me just to see that it’s not just our environment. It’s assumptions, things that we tell ourselves we shouldn’t say or shouldn’t do. That can lead to fear. And when you have this voice telling you that if you say something that somebody’s going to shut you down or if you talk to this professor, you’re going to get kicked out of class or you have a boss that says, don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions.

We’ve all heard these things that shut us down. I had a boss once. I went to him and he gave me something to do. And I said, “hey, I’d love to do that. How do I do that?” And he looked at me and he said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” Well, what does that tell you?  You’re an idiot. Don’t ask questions. Pretend that you know things you don’t know. That happens every day at work. And you could have had this boss in the past and your current boss doesn’t even know you had that boss. But you think this boss will treat you the same way as the old boss. So now the fear and assumptions become ingrained. We don’t address what’s holding us back.

Ira S Wolfe

We’ve got a question in the chat about focused curiosity. Curiosity is great, but if it’s unstructured, it can be unproductive. How do you how do you find the right balance?

Dr Diane Hamilton

That’s a good question. You really want to have very focused emphasis on what you’re curious about. In the business setting, we talk to leaders about this. I do a lot of work with Verizon, Novartis, and Merck and other large companies. They all are embracing this culture of curiosity. We’re trying to look at different ways of getting people to read and learn and go into areas that are maybe helpful to their work, but that aren’t their normal of doing things.

For example, Novartis has a program where they have 100 hours that they reward a year for any kind of education or training that they do that ties into their job, but maybe isn’t traditional. They do these little mini TED talks within the company itself. Their own employees are the speakers.

They do a lot of little education videos to teach people about the value of learning things that are specific to what their industry is, to building curiosity. They’ve had me come in to help create some of those videos and then they have employees get on and say, this is how I’ve used curiosity to help me be successful in my career.

When you get to see more directed curiosity towards different areas, it really helps open up the possibilities of what you can learn. Just to say I’ve checked off the box and I’ve read a few books doesn’t necessarily lead you to an end goal. We try to have people create these SMART goals based on what they learn and their curiosity code index results. It’s like a personal SWOT.

Ira S Wolfe

I want to get to what you call FATE, which I think is brilliant. Because right now, the fate of humanity or the fate of our future is really tied to curiosity. FATE identifies all the trappings of curiosity.

Dr Diane Hamilton

As Sir Ken Robinson said in this TED talk, we’re educating people out of their capabilities sometimes. One of them is creativity. Curiosity falls into that mix, because if you go to these classes in the past, sometimes it was all focused on maybe math and science. Only occasionally soft skills were included. You mentioned empathy before. Emotional intelligence. These things didn’t receive a lot of focus.

We’re in a time when we’re looking at people who are hired for their knowledge and fired for their behaviors. We’re going to see a lot more behavioral based things focused on in education. But how do we do this now? Are we doing it through Zoom, classroom, or are we doing it through a virtual way? It’s making people question things. And I love that because we have it to find the most optimal way to reach people.

Ira S Wolfe

Absolutely. So before we get too far away from cracking the curiosity code. We still have that childish curiosity. But you’ve identified four core reasons that we stifle it, bury it, crush it, whatever word you want to use. You came up with the acronym FATE. Walk us through FATE then maybe give some example as you’re going along.

Dr Diane Hamilton

I’m so glad you’re interested in all of this work that we’ve done. It was really fascinating to me when I started to write about curiosity, I looked out there to see what kind of assessments were measuring it.  And there wasn’t anything that told you what holds you back or inhibits your curiosity.

I was trying to make this quantifiable. What kinds of things hold us back. I started out by posting a question into a LinkedIn group, just asking them what hold you back from being curious. I just wanted to see what the initial knee jerk reaction was and overwhelmingly I heard a lot of people say fear.

Fear holds them back. They don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to look unprepared. They don’t want to ask that “stupid” question in meetings. They are the only ones that have that question. Hey, Ira, why don’t you ask the questions that no one wants to ask? There’s this sense of fear that can overwhelm people. But that wasn’t the only factor I found. So what I did was study thousands of people for years by giving them different questions, trying to figure out what are the factors that hold people back. I found four factors.

As I mentioned, I use the acronym of Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment or FATE. Let me just start with fear. It’s that sense of not being prepared, that you’re the only one that has this question. It’s very intimidating to a lot of people, especially if you have that boss like I had, who would say something like, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” or the guy or gal that says, don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions when you have somebody.

They cut you off at the knees. The next time you have a question, the next time you have a great idea, you’re not going to ask or offer it. Fear is a huge factor. There are different aspects to fear. So we’ve got to find what parts of fear are problematic for you. So you might not have fear, embarrassment, you might fear being unprepared.

It’s really important to look at the 9 different aspects under each factor. Let us move into assumptions. That’s really the voice in your head. It’s what you’re telling yourself. When I speak, I’ll hold up a bottle of water and I’ll say, “how heavy is this water?” And they’ll guess six ounces or 12 ounces or whatever. But it doesn’t matter. It matters how long I hold it. If I hold it for a little while, no big deal. If I hold it for an hour, my hand gets a little tired. If I hold it for a longer time, my arm is paralyzed. That’s how our assumptions are. We tell ourselves these things. I’m not going to be interested in this. It was too hard to study that in the past. I’m not good with math. These are the kinds of things that you tell yourself that can also just make you just freeze.

Then we have technology, which was an interesting one to me. Technology represents both over- and under-utilization. You could be the greatest mathematician in the world and not know it because they just gave you a calculator and you never learned the math behind it. Sometimes we need to have no tech days and other times we need high tech days where we can take advantage of the tech.

That’s the real interesting thing. Technology can either be something that you can in a great way or it can really inhibit us.

Then we have environment. It’s your friends, your boss, your past boss, your teachers, your parents, your siblings, even social media. It’s everybody with whom you’ve interacted your whole life. There is a background noise that we don’t even recognize that has impacted what we do. Things like parents who said you have to go into the family business. Everybody is always done things this way or your siblings make fun of you because you’re interested in something else or because that’s not cool. And now you’re old enough, and, wait a minute, I always liked that. It was just that everyone told your told me it was not a cool thing to do. What are the things holding you back? So it’s really important to get the Curiosity Code Index assessment to identify what’s holding you back.

This is huge, because companies must find a way to get people out of that comfortable status quo zone that they’re in. They need to recognize the things that are holding you back.

Ira S Wolfe

Sarah has a great question here. “I’m wondering what data you’ve seen on those who attempt strategies to build curiosity compared to those who are able to move the needle on applying more moments of curiosity?”

Dr Diane Hamilton

I use a lot of Carol Dweck’s work. There are a lot of environmental factors that you look at. If you’re a kid and your parents tell you if you work hard, you’ll have this growth mindset. Or you’re a natural so you don’t have to really try too hard. Then you are not going to have that growth mindset. That’s not how it works.

But as far as the data, that is very challenging to get. I’ve had Francesca Gino talk about that on my show of what she’s doing at Harvard. And a lot of what they see in the business setting is that leaders think they encourage curiosity. I’m sorry. They don’t.  They think they’re encouraging curiosity. But actually, half of their employees say they’re not.

Ira S Wolfe

Here is another question from Solange. What’s the relationship between mindfulness, sensemaking, and curiosity?

Dr Diane Hamilton

That’s an interesting one. I had Daniel Goleman on the show. Because I wrote my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence, I was dying to have him on the show. But he’s now very much a mindfulness expert. And I’ve had the mother of mindfulness on my show. I think of her last name off the top of my head. But I have not done research to combine those things with curiosity. But It ties into critical thinking in general, which we incorporated into the MBA program here at Forbes. To do really great critical thinking, you have to think of the questions. You have to develop this sense of curiosity and it ties into empathy, because if you’re going to find out about other people, you have to ask questions. And there’s so much that I looked at in my book on perception and my research for the Perception Power Index, which is the next one I created was because I looked at perception is a combination of curiosity, culture, IQ and EQ.

Ira S Wolfe

Everybody talks about critical thinking. People talk about emotional intelligence; people talk about empathy. Now the buzz is adaptability or agile. To do any of those, you have to be curious what people are trying to teach.  But how can you have empathy? How can you have even emotional intelligence people? I bet you there is not a day that goes by that I don’t get a request through my website for emotional intelligence tests.  But, if the employees don’t have curiosity, if they’re not curious about what makes them tick, if they’re not curious about what makes other people tick, if they’re not curious about why people perceive them the way they do then it doesn’t really matter.

Dr Diane Hamilton

And there are so many people who went to school to get that base of knowledge. They memorized what they needed to get through and get great grades. But they’re not necessarily the most successful people later. And I know you were talking about how we don’t focus enough on the word curiosity, but you see Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and all these people talk about curiosity is their number one quality.

Ira S Wolfe

Here’s another question. “Can use secondary information to understand a person’s curiosity, aptitude? For example, can you compare Obama and Trump through the lens and understand the outcomes?

Dr Diane Hamilton

You have to ask questions about almost everything these days. You have to look at more than one source. If you only watch Fox or you only watch CNN, you’re going to get one slanted view. A lot of people like to reinforce their own view. And to do that is going to be limiting because you’re not really thinking critically. You’re only thinking what supports what you know, what you want to hear. So you have to try and listen to different sources and go to actual peer reviewed stuff to look up certain things. You can’t just rely on edutainment.

Ira S Wolfe

That’s a great segue into perception. Perception really got exposed over the last few months, especially with George Floyd and some of the other killings. That increased awareness. I grew up in the 60s. So, I remember living in a time that is now somewhat embarrassing, how much prejudice and bias there was, the way we treated certain people. We got better. We improved but not enough. Then as I like to say, the shift hit the plan. For many, many reasons, there is so much emphasis now on understanding conscious bias, unconscious bias.

Dr Diane Hamilton

Perception was interesting to me because it’s in that behavioral realm that I like to focus on. And I started to recognize that there’s a process that we go through in this perception. And my co-author, Dr. Maja Zelthic, had worked in Forbes’ with me and we had talked about whether these things that global businesses have to deal with. And we started to look at perception as a process. So I did the same kind of research as I did with curiosity to see what kinds of things impacted. And I looked at it as an EPIC process which again is one of my acronyms, I was all about how we Evaluate, Predict, Interpret and Correlate information.

Sometimes you have to ask questions, which is your curiosity part. But there is also the understanding part, the cultural aspect, the critical thinking and the ties back to IQ and EQ. So perception is the process you go through to come up with your conclusions. You don’t recognize how much your vantage point impacts your decision, because your perception is your reality.

For example, I have no clue what Ira’s reality is unless I ask questions and try to develop empathy. If you have this culture that says this is a value to us and you don’t recognize that this other culture doesn’t value that at all, It’s hard to know what you don’t know. Uncovering these layers of the onion is what helps you really understand other people’s decisions. You don’t have to have the same opinion as they have. You don’t have to say to agree with them, but you can understand how they came to this decision and why it’s so important to them so that you can find a common ground. We want more win-win win situations. But if everybody feels like they’re losing something and they don’t know why, that’s causing a lot of negotiation issues. That’s causing a lot of collaboration issues. And it’s hard to work internationally if you open branches in other countries and you have to do business then you’re very limited if you don’t understand that.

Ira S Wolfe

Well, even within this country. We’ve got the blue vs read. Here’s a great quote from Paul. It’s from Abraham Lincoln. “I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Dr Diane Hamilton

I love that one. The more you know, the more you can accept, and you can embrace because we’re more alike than we are different. But it’s unfortunate that we focus on those differences and that can be the source of conflict. And we know how much companies are losing due to conflict, communication issues, engagement issues.

Ira S Wolfe

We have just a couple of minutes here. Here is a link for you to take the Curiosity Code Index. So you can sign up for it, complete it online and the report will be automatically delivered to you. But to get everyone to order your book and to get to your course, how do people get in touch with you?

Dr Diane Hamilton

Well, you can find everything at DrDianeHamilton.com. You can scroll down to the bottom and sign up for that free course, which is really great because it’s got a lot of video in it. It has a lot of chapters from the book and a lot of content that could help you learn more about curiosity. And you can also find my radio show and everything else on my site. You can listen to my episode with Ira and you and you can go to GeeksGeezersGooglization.com and hear my interview with Ira too. And please me @DrDianeHamilton on social media too.

Ira S Wolfe

Any closing comments?

Dr Diane Hamilton

I just I love that everybody is curious enough to join us today because that shows that you have an open mind to trying to find things that can develop your sense of curiosity. I think that if you do nothing else after you take this assessment, try to take your worst score that you have for each of the four areas and create kind of just a measurable action plan of something you can do today that will help you overcome that. If you have a fear of speaking in a meeting, maybe think of a simple question next time to address to them that will make you feel too uncomfortable. And if it helps you to preface something by saying I’m trying to develop my sense of curiosity, so they don’t shut you down. Say: “I just hope you don’t mind if I ask a question. I normally wouldn’t ask, but I would like to ask X, Y, Z.” And I think people will be much more open to you if they think you’re trying to develop this trait.

Ira S Wolfe

Thank you very much. Hopefully a lot of the people on today’s event will be in touch with you as well as I anticipate, many of these people will taking the assessment over the next few days. The link does expire Sunday.

Again, Diane, thank you very much. Stay safe. Thanks very much, everyone.


About Success Performance Solutions

Success Performance Solutions helps companies of any size in any industry recruit faster and hire smarter. Since 1996, SPS has established itself as a leader in pre-hire and leadership assessment, respected by both clients and peers. It also provides recruitment marketing consulting services and offers an extensive library of online microlearning videos for coaching and training.

About Ira S Wolfe

Ira S Wolfe is a “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body” and the world’s first Chief Googlization Officer. He is president of Poised for the Future Company, founder of Success Performance Solutions, a TEDx Speaker, host of Geeks Geezers Googlization podcast, and frequent presenter at SHRM and business conferences. Ira was also recently honored as one of the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Future of Work by Thinkers360. His most recent book is Recruiting in the Age of Googlization, now in its 2nd edition, is recognized as one of the best HR and Recruiting books of all-time by Book Authority. He is also the founder of the Googlization Nation community and frequent contributor to HR and business blog.

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