Sunday, December 09, 2012

What does standing in curiosity have to do with knowledge transfer?

'Standing in curiosity' is a term I use often, especially when working with clients around knowledge transfer.  Let me explain first what I mean when I use that term and then why that is a critical component to knowledge transfer.

First, let’s talk about curiosity.  To me, the word invokes a sense of wonder, of non-judgmental exploration, of a mind open to new ideas, of being willing to not know while wanting to learn.  Curiosity means that you do not need to think you know everything, instead that you would like to find out more, to see new things and that you are open to possibilities.
Being curious then means that you are ready and willing to learn and explore and that your mind is open to new possibilities. What an incredible place from what to learn and gain knowledge.

Why do I say that we need to stand in curiosity? I intentionally use the word ‘stand’ to evoke the sensation that your body is involved, not just your mind. I use the word to create imagery that lets you feel present, that curiosity is all around you, that you are standing IN it. Now not only is your mind open, but your somatic self, your entire self, is also involved.  Standing in curiosity means you are as open as you can be to learning.
Now why is that so critical to knowledge transfer?

Let’s think about what is happening when we are transferring knowledge. First, there is the holder of the knowledge with their experiences, their background, with years of building up their expertise from all of the accumulated decisions, actions and observations. Let’s call them the expert.
The learner is often someone with their own experience in the area, their own background and years of learning—it does not matter if that learner is young or older, they bring their own level of understanding to the experience.
It could be very possible for the learner then to judge what they are hearing or learning or observing from the expert through their previous experience BEFORE they are able to try it out, to ponder it, to assimilate it.  The learner may dismiss new ideas or ideas they might build upon because they are not open or curious but rather letting their own experience close their mind to the possibility that there is more to learn from what is being transferred.  They may say to themselves “that’s not how it really works” or “I don’t do it that way” or “I’ll let them talk but I know better”.

A learner who stands in curiosity does not take everything that is being told them or transferred to them as absolute or true without question. Instead they are listening, pondering, finding out how it all works together and listening to the whole story, the context, the background and rationale.  They are turning it all over in their mind and taking out what works for them, what the nuggets are to build upon, adding to their own repertoire and understanding.  They are open to the possibility that there is something new, some novel approach or idea, some helpful background for them in what they are learning.
For the expert, having a curious learner makes sharing knowledge much more fun, more of a give and take, a more engaging experience.  The quality of the experience can be enhanced and what’s more, the outcome can be a shared learning, a bigger aha.
Standing in curiosity takes nothing more than an attitude shift, costs nothing to the learner and creates an experience more valuable for expert, learner and the organization

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