The Importance of Curiosity and What It Can Do for You

Posted by David Grossman on Mon,Nov 11, 2019

David-Mom-Avi-before-going-horseback-riding.jpgCommemorating the 30th anniversary celebration of Medill's Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications (JIMC). From left to right: Northwestern University's Medill School IMC Associate Dean Vijay Viswanathan, Dean Charles Whitaker, JIMC Editor-in-Chief Chaoying (Karen) Wang, myself, Senior Lecturer & Faculty Advisor Nancy Hobor, JIMC Editorial Director Caleb Hall, JIMC Copy Editor Sara Caputo, and JIMC Creative Director Richard (Shih-Han) Chou.

I was humbled recently to speak at the 30th anniversary celebration of Medill's Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, which I helped start. I was asked to speak about how the Journal began to an audience of current grad students, alumni, faculty and staff.

What follows are my remarks about the power of curiosity, and the one question that can help you solve any problem:

David Grossman speaking at the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Northwestern Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications in ChicagoMost of us probably read Curious George as a child – that lovable chimpanzee and his many adventures with “The Man in the Yellow Hat.” I was reacquainted with George when my daughters were a bit younger and had to laugh at the way George always seemed to get himself into trouble. That was all a direct result of his natural curiosity and his willingness to take some risks, venturing out to see what other interesting experiences might be out there. Of course, that led to creating a flood at his house, getting carried off by a kite, crashing on a bike, and more. You probably recall his shenanigans!

So, are we to believe that this is what happens when one is curious, adventurous, and willing to try something new? Is that the moral? Problems arise? Mistakes are made? Lessons are learned. When one is open to wondering and musing and trying and exploring?

Surely being curious can get us into some monkey business now and then, if you’ll forgive the pun. But most importantly, it also can lead to great things!

Exploring Curiosity

As a young grad student at Northwestern, I didn’t always appreciate my own natural curiosity. Yet it was a simple musing – one question: “Is there something worth exploring here?” – that was the launching pad for the Journal of Corporate Public Relations, now the Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, which we celebrate tonight.

A group of us were studying at my apartment before an oral exam about effective communications inside organizations, and we thought that one way to review and get prepared for the exam was to review headlines from the papers each of us had written that semester.

quotes-redAs a young grad student at Northwestern, I didn’t always appreciate my own natural curiosity. Yet it was a simple musing – one question: “Is there something worth exploring here?” – that was the launching pad for the Journal of Corporate Public Relations, now the Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, which we celebrate tonight.quotes-2-red

One of my classmates started sharing her brilliance, and as I listened, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, that sure sounds interesting, I’d like to read that." Then another shared. Same reaction. Everyone was curious about our peers’ work.

If we were all interested in these articles, I wondered whether others in the field might be interested in some of this leading-edge thinking, too.

I thought to myself, “Is there something worth exploring here?” And that started a dialogue with a few of us about the possibility of starting a journal, and the creation of a business case.

Clarke Caywood and I took the idea to Ray Ewing who headed the program then. He was a serious thought leader and pioneer in the field of issues management, and to some on the outside, could appear a little gruff at times.

After our pitch, I’ll always remember Ray leaning forward and staring right at me when he asked, "What do graduate students have to contribute to the body of knowledge in corporate public relations?" I took his question at face value. "A lot," I said, then recounted some of the important articles a number of my classmates authored. My point was that we were the future of our profession and we have an important voice and perspective on our field; our program has an important point-of-view and the journal would allow it to be heard. That was all it took.

We assembled an Editorial Board of grad students and an Editorial Advisory Board of professionals from the field, got some seed money from the Allstate Foundation, and created the first journal produced by grad students and designed specially (at the time) for corporate public relations professionals. Our mission was to integrate theory with practice.

The Superpower of Curiosity

So, out of a little curiosity, and a willingness to get out of our comfort zones and take a little risk, came something very special. And, of course, it has evolved and been made better by the hundreds of terrific grad students here who have nurtured and cared for this important piece of thought leadership.

So maybe Curious George was onto something!

I now have a greater appreciation for this superpower of curiosity and thinking outside the box, and I see a huge opportunity to leverage this important skill in the workplace to make a difference.

To be authentic and achieve things of value, you need to be curious about yourself, about others, and about the world. You can’t be authentic without the ability to reflect and be self-aware. You have to be able to be curious despite any of the other feelings you might be having – whether it’s concern or worry, or other much more uncomfortable feelings like fear of failure.

quotes-redI now have a greater appreciation for this superpower of curiosity and thinking outside the box, and I see a huge opportunity to leverage this important skill in the workplace to make
a difference. 
quotes-2-red

When you’re curious, you open up your own ability to solve virtually any problem. You can say, "Wow that’s interesting... Is there something worth exploring here? Is there something I can learn about myself or others?" I see it all the time in the work I do today with senior leaders inside organizations. Leaders who get the furthest ahead in business are those most willing to continually learn how to grow, and to stay relevant.

David & Karen v.2JIMC Editor-in-Chief Karen Wang and I at the 30th anniversary celebration of Medill's Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications.

And that’s why the IMC program is even more important today than ever before.

I always say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without having been through this amazing program. I also used to say that I wouldn’t have as much debt had I not been through this amazing program. Fortunately, since my education here helped me accelerate my career, I also was able to accelerate paying my loans!

You might have heard that NYU Langone Medical School now covers the full tuition cost for all medical students regardless of need, and some other schools are following its lead to attract the best and brightest, and so students essentially leave with little if any debt. 

Hmmm. Might there be something worth exploring here?

Thank you very much, and here’s to 30+ more great years of the journal.

—David Grossman


Click below to download this free eBook—Respectful Authenticity: Bringing Your Best to Work and Bringing Out the Best in Others—is written for leaders who wish to bring more of who they truly are to the workplace.
respectful_authenticity

Tags: Awards/ Articles/ Interviews

    About leadercommunicator blog

    Leadership and communications expert, David Grossman shares high-level tips on leadership effectiveness, internal communications, employee engagement, and a variety of other topics on the minds of leaders and communicators.

    Subscribe by Email

    leadercommunicator-blog-awards
    Going Slow to Go Fast eBook
    David Grossman - The Relationship Between Corporate Culture and Performance in the WSJ
    Podcast-for-communicators
    Take the Email-Free Vacation Pledge