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‘Satiable Curiosity

July 27, 2016


IN the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn’t pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant—a new Elephant—an Elephant’s Child—who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity (sic), and that means he asked ever so many questions.

I remember reading this Rudyard Kipling story to my children. We loved the story because it taught them that being curious was a good thing. I still love it because, even to this day, it reminds me to be curious about the world and people around me.

Insatiable Curiosity

I am blessed with the curse of insatiable curiosity. In general, curiosity serves me well. It causes me to stop and wonder, from time-to-time, about why we—you and I—make the assumptions we make. Where did that assumption come from? Can I validate it? Do others make the same assumptions?

It causes me to wonder what your point of view might be and to explore how we might find common ground for our views. In business, especially in negotiations, curiosity about what you need, what you want and where we have common interests is invaluable. Insatiable curiosity is what drives life-long learning for me. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”

Rabbit Hole

The curse is that not infrequently, my curiosity can take me down a very tangential rabbit hole. I may find myself spending hours reading one article after another about the question I had. With the ability to query Google, no question is too crazy to research. And the results can be most enlightening. And time consuming!

A Subtle Lesson

And did you notice the “misspellings” in Kipling’s story? It is thought by many that Kipling was writing in a “child from India’s” voice. Children frequently experience phonological confusion. My grandson, for a long time, spoke of “loving the fallingos,” meaning flamingos. Even now, despite the fact that he is almost eight years old and has a fabulous vocabulary and correctly pronounces the word, we will point out the “fallingos” to him at the Zoo. He smiles, sheepishly, recognizing that this is an inside, family story. So Kipling gave his story character by introducing the phonological twists. If you try, and are familiar with it, you can almost hear the India/British accent of a child reading this story.

Obviously, Kipling studied his environment and spoke to his audience in a way that would add color as well as pass along a lesson. It started with his own curiosity.

Waking Up

My experience is that if I approach life with a genuine insatiable curiosity, I am much more likely to create trust with the people I meet and more likely to see our assumptions for what they are—non-validated stereotypes or intuitions. That serves me well more often than not, so I am willing to take the occasional trip down a tangential rabbit hole along with the satisfaction of waking up to the world around me.

How might we instill a sense of “‘satiable curtiosity” in our organizations? How might we learn more about our world, country, industries, markets and customers if we, like the elephant child, “asked ever so many questions”?

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