Ian's blog

  • Tips for living a more curious life

    Hello from the window seat of the 16:35 Manchester to Euston train. I love a train ride, it's always a great opportunity to press the pause button, get some work done, catch up on some podcasts but also to daydream out of the window.

    Wherever in the world you are reading this I hope you find time to take a break for five minutes, grab a coffee and check out some suggestions for being more curious at work.

    I think curiosity is so important. It’s easy to get stuck with our head-down in our industry or organisational bubble. Shifting our mindset to explore other worlds and open our eyes to new possibilities can help us do our jobs better. I recently gave a talk about curiosity at Inspire Live at Google's London HQ. One member of the audience told me it had been a "shot in the arm" reminding him and his team to stay curious at work (if your team or organisation needs a shot in the arm, get in touch - contact details at the bottom of this email!).

    So here are some practical steps to get you in a more curious mindset:

    1. Go outside. I know many people work in organisational cultures where they rarely leave the building, not even for lunch. So please, try and get outside at lunchtime, if only for a walk around the block. I bet you’ll find some clarity in the fresh air and who knows what opportunities you might bump into?
    2. Get your shoes dirty. My friends at Stripe Partners run an innovation consultancy rooted in anthropology. I love Stripe’s belief that in order to understand the world around us we need to get our shoes dirty and go and experience things first hand. So embrace your inner anthropologist: spend time walking in your employees’ or customers’ shoes, “get stuck in” to find the answers.
    3. Talk to strangers. Today I’ve been working at Media City UK in Manchester. Walking outside at lunchtime I got talking to a cleaning supervisor called Sonny. As we walked along we chatted about his job - he told me how much he loves it. I found that a conversation with a random stranger really fired up my afternoon. It also turned my perception of the job on its head.
    4. Take inspiration from unusual places. If you’re struggling with ideas or you need a fresh source of inspiration, I find that listening to a new podcast or watching a stimulating documentary can help kick start my creativity. This week I watched one of Benjamin Zand's BBC Pop Up documentaries and listened to the Happy Melly podcast (this episode - Discovering What Makes Us Tick - features an interview with me). And if you're looking for the perfect soundtrack for a train journey, let me recommend this wonderful concert from Tinariwen, a band from the Sahara Desert.
    5. Explore the unfamiliar. When you're traveling on business and arrive in a city you don’t know, rather than take the easy option and head to Starbucks, try going somewhere unfamiliar. On my recent travels, I’ve sought out side street cafes and independent record shops. For me these are the best places to stand back and look at things from a fresh perspective. The vibe is different, the atmosphere feels more creative and you get to meet interesting people who are more likely to take time and chat to you.

    Let me know how you get on!