A guide to developing curiosity for PMs and anyone with a strong desire to know or learn something.
Curiosity or a seeking spirit has been considered one of the most important virtues for success. Many great people throughout history have spoken of its importance. This is also a highly sought-after skill in product managers and many other professions also look for this trait in their teams. Curiosity comes naturally to a few but as with anything else, I believe it can also be developed.
Humans inherently are curious by nature. Oxford dictionary defines curiosity as a strong desire to know or learn something. Great product managers are lifelong learners. There is always a problem, an insight or a customer response that they are learning from. They thrive in learning.
So here are a few ways to assess if you’re living curiously and to develop it further.
Understand self and keep evolving
One of the most essential skills for a product manager is to understand the motivations and needs of their end users. The skill to deep dive into someone’s behaviour and words to find the root cause is critical to solving the right problem, correctly.
The key to understanding and empathizing with others starts with a deeper understanding of oneself. The next time you go for a choco chip ice cream and not caramel crunchy, ask yourself the reason behind the choice. Observe your behaviours and go deeper to find what makes you tick and kick.
To be curious about that which is not one’s concern while still in ignorance of oneself is absurd.Plato
Develop an interest in deeply knowing people
Learning the tools to find root causes will make for a decent PM. However, by developing a genuine interest in understanding people we can enjoy the process even more.
Start with the person in front of you – teammates, friends and family. Uncover their emotional needs, motivations and fears. The practice of understanding people close to you will help develop compassion that will come forth elsewhere in your work.
Get out of your comfort zone
Don’t stick to job descriptions – irrespective of the role. One should develop a holistic understanding of the system and how it connects together. It is important to learn about business drivers or technical design, especially if one doesn’t have a business or engineering background. An extensive understanding of how stuff works will help one find problems that are oblivious to others. This quote by Steve Jobs explains it well.
Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.Steve Jobs
Don’t take it at face value
Whether it be a metric going down, a customer raising a voice or stakeholders asking for a feature, don’t start building right away. Pause and dive deeper to understand what’s underneath. It is often about what they need rather than what they want.
This goes true for human relationships as well. For instance, a heated exchange with a co-worker may flare us up in an instant. But if we go deeper to know the root cause of their behaviour, it can help build an effective working equation.
No one size fits all
Asking why five times does not mean curiosity. There’ll be times when your questions will get a backlash or be seen as intrusive. There’ll be customers who just won’t budge. There’ll be concepts that you won’t understand. Following a guideline is anti-curiosity. Improvise. A mix of why-what-how-when in any order would make for a better strategy.
This article is written from a product manager’s perspective. However, curiosity goes a long way in any profession or life. Whether you’re starting your career, changing jobs or an expert in your field, to be curious is to be alive. As long as we are curious we can never fail, we will only learn.
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.Albert Einstein