Cultures of Curiosity

NEW ALALEARNING BLOG POST

This month ALALearning bloggers are focusing on how learning is done in our organizations.  Having started at the MPOW just a few short months ago I am still learning how learning happens– formally and informally — in the organization. So rather than address the question narrowly, I’d like to look more broadly at the topic and suggest that the foundation for learning in any organization is having a culture of curiosity.

See the whole article over at ALALearning, (also transcribed below 3/27/13)


This month ALALearning bloggers are focusing on how learning is done in our organizations.  Having started at the MPOW just a few short months ago I am still learning how learning happens– formally and informally — in the organization.

So rather than address the question narrowly, I’d like to look more broadly at the topic and suggest that the foundation for learning in any organization is having a culture of curiosity.  Whether you are promoting learning in your organization through self-paced online tutorials, face-to-face workshops and discussions, or sharing of annotated bookmarks, learning will not happen in any real or consistent way unless there is a strong shared value of curiosity.

Curious kittenWhy do I assert this?  Because an attitude of curiosity is the only known antidote to the single biggest block to learning: the idea that we already have the answer (and it’s 1st cousin, “I don’t care about the answer”.)  Being in a state of curiosity means looking out at the world, collecting data, observing human behaviors and interactions, and asking “why?” and “what if?”  These questions are humbling.  They bring down our blocks and mitigate our filters and invite new data to enter our minds, and creatively find new ways to integrate and organize organizing data with a goal of understanding.

THE VALUE OF A CULTURE OF CURIOSITY
One of the most powerful effects of cultivating a consciousness and culture of curiosity is that it greatly enhances communication and the quality of relationships.  Communication (and thus learning) is shut down when we assume we understand the motivations of others, and all too often we ascribe negative motivations to others without pausing to contemplate their perspective.

Curiosity creates space for that pause.  When we are in a place of deep and authentic curiosity about others, it is impossible to simultaneously be in a place of judgment, which is a closing of ourselves to other ways of seeing.  When we curiously ask why, we  open to the idea that others have a unique and valuable perspective that can expand our own data set and worldview.  Asking why leads to conversation and exploration, which in turn leads us to a deeper understanding of how others experience the world, their motivations, and their choices.  And this deeper understanding, in turn, helps to reinforce our own consciousness of curiosity, and thus our own personal culture of learning.

I am curious about what has worked for you.  How is learning promoted in your organization?   What tools, methods, tips, tricks have worked for you?   Drop your thoughts in the comment section!

Juicy Visions: Reconnecting with purpose

Reconnecting with purpose. What juicy vision gave birth to your Library?

Want an easy yet powerful way to re-energize and re-focus your passion at work? Clear five minutes from your schedule (yeah, you’re busy, but you can do it.) Pick up a pencil or a keyboard or a crayon and answer this question: What juicy vision gave birth to your library?

Think about it: Libraries don’t just appear. Your library didn’t just pop fully-formed into existence one day, did it? I’ve never started a library, but I’m sure it’s not a quick or easy process. A short list of needed elements might include: Funding, employees, land, building, furniture, collections, utilities, finances, training, computers. The creation of your library may have also required an expression of the will of the people, perhaps in the form of a public vote or approval from a Board or Commission.

So how did your library get here? There must have been many people involved and they must have really wanted to create it. A lot of time and energy went into it. These people, these ‘founders’ could have been playing golf, or spending time with their children, or watching a movie. Why did they choose to invest some of their limited time on this planet into creating your library? There had to have been one heck of a compelling vision.

THE JUICY VISION

Before brick one was laid, or book one was laminated, your library begin its existence as a vision in someone’s mind. It must have been an exciting, juicy vision, so filled with energy that people felt compelled to share it, and talk about it, and invest their energy and time into making it a reality. That vision must have turned people on.

“Yeah, a library… I see it! Information. Books on anything and everything. A great collection of materials. It will be a living reflection of our community’s values. It will help ensure a healthy democracy. It will be a place where people can educate themselves—level the playing field. A place for focused study. A place for serendipitous discovery. A place to bring the kids. A place to relax. A place to be stimulated by new ideas. Yeah, I see it!!”

People got so jazzed by this vision that they wrote about it and talked about it, and got other people jazzed to a point where a community of people said, yeah, let’s do it! We want it! Let’s spend money. Let’s give our time. Let’s develop some land. Let’s build buildings! Lets create something that will reflect this juicy vision. Let’s bring it to life!

WHAT GOT ‘EM SO JAZZED?

My question is, what was this vision that got everyone so turned on that they got into action? What was their original intention in creating your library? What got them so motivated? If you want to re-energize and re-focus, try reconnecting with the founding purpose of your organization.

Start there, at the beginning, but also remember that organizations are like people; they are capable of changing and growing. The cells in our bodies today are not the same cells that were in our bodies when we were born. We are, physically speaking, a completely different set of atoms. Yet there is still some organizing energy that makes you, you and makes me, me. Ten years ago we were different people, but I was me and you were you. Our goals may have changed since then. We may have acquired new skills and abilities. The roles we play may have changed, evolved, grown. Maybe we’ve abandoned certain roles in exchange for others that make more sense for us. This is also true about your library. The people may have changed, the building may have changed, and the mission may have even shifted, but it’s still the same library. So start with the founding vision, but also think about what vision animates your library today. And what vision might animate it tomorrow?

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: A FEW JUICY QUESTIONS

To reconnect to your library’s purpose, it might be helpful to explore these questions:

  • What juicy vision gave birth to our library?
  • How does that vision inform, animate, shape, and energize what we do today?
  • What is the purpose of our library today? Is the vision the same? If not, how has it changed?
  • Why does the library continue to exist?
  • What energy flows through this library, connecting all aspects of it?
  • What purpose does the library serve?
  • What purpose can the library serve?
  • What purpose do we want the library to serve?
  • What purpose do I want the library to serve?
  • What can I do to bring the juicy vision to life every day?

I’m sure there are other questions that I’m not seeing. If you see others to add to the list, please leave a comment–and tell me about your library’s juicy vision!