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Being curious

As the wonderful Dorothy Parker once said, 'there is no cure for curiosity'. And while it might have killed the cat, curiosity has been at the heart of Lucidity's work since I launched nearly 8 years ago. This is encapsulated in our second core value - challenging traditional views and approaches. While I struggled with my constant need to ask difficult questions when I was employed, it's always been an essential part of Lucidity's purpose. In this post, I reflect on how this comes through in my work.

The key to being curious is to ask questions. Then to ask some more. And then, if you're still not satisfied, to challenge the answers. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Many people don't like to be questioned in this way. Many find it easier (or safer) to ignore what's really causing problems. And many don't want to challenge the status quo. So, I approach it in a few different ways:

1 - Be open to diversion

First, I try to encourage people to be honest with me, by finding out about what they're interested in - and why - and by being open with them about the project I'm working on. Most people who volunteer to get involved in workshops or interviews are keen to share their experiences and perspectives, so I try to encourage that as much as possible. This can mean that conversations can be wide-ranging and might seem as though they're going off the point. But's that an important part of the process. Being too strict with your questions tends to put people off. You get far more interesting information if you simply invite them to talk. That said, I do usually keep a few questions up my sleeve, just to make sure I've covered the ground I need. But they only come out if they're needed!

2 - Raise the elephant in the room

One of the main reasons I thought I might be useful as a consultant was that I like to dig deeper, and it's far easier to do this as a more objective observer than as a company employee. I think it's an essential part of the process to embrace the elephants in the room, not shy away from them, and I wouldn't be providing good value if I didn't get to grips with the big issues. And this really does mean asking the difficult questions. This works best when you're asking them because of what your research shows, drawing on an understanding of different perspectives, an analysis of the data and the wider context. And because you have no political motivations for doing it, those questions are easier to ask and the issues easier to unpick. Don't get me wrong, this can still feel a bit awkward, but it's an essential part of the process.

3 - Challenging the norm

I like to try out new things - sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But there's always something to learn from attempting to do things differently. This challenge to traditional ways of working is something else I'm committed to bringing to the work I do, whether that's encouraging large-scale consultations to really understand the issues, or using an online platform to streamline a process or help with communications. And while some people can be quite closed off to trying different things, with an evidence-based argument and the right encouragement and support, most can see the benefits.

It's not always easier being curious, but it's worth that discomfort when you can see the value that challenge can really bring. After all, as the full saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.


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