One of the mechanisms that led to Santa Fe‘s success: switching from being questioning to being curious.
As a highly-trained Naval Officer I was used to knowing all the answers. I would often question the crew to make sure they understood the technicalities of their equipment: “What does this valve do?”. Whenever they were stumped I would tell them the answer. I’m sure my tone was one of “you better know this.” I thought I was being curious but I was not.
Curiosity is defined, “as a desire for information in the absence of any extrinsic benefit [such as demonstrating our own knowledge].” Being suddenly reassigned to Santa Fe with two week’s notice forced me to be truly curious.
I had prepared for one submarine for an entire year but Santa Fe was a different type of sub and I no longer had all the technical answers. So I switched from questioning the crew in order to quiz their knowledge to questioning the crew in order to enhance my own. If we came across something neither of us fully understood I’d ask them to teach me about it when they could.
3 Advantages of Curiosity
I quickly realized that there were advantages to being truly curious.
Try asking some of these questions at your organization and let me know how it works. Don’t be afraid to reveal that you don’t know everything.
Knowing but Curious
Eventually I filled in the gaps in my understanding about the technical details of Santa Fe. Yet my new habit of curiosity remained. My new state of being was knowing but curious. It meant that I continued asking questions as if I didn’t know, allowing the crew the opportunity to think like leaders. This was hugely powerful because it unlocked the thinking capacity of the entire crew; everyone began thinking like his superior. One of the results of this was that long after my time at Santa Fe was over the ship continued to promote a disproportionate number of officers to command.
The following chart explains the progression. On previous ships I knew the technical details and I would question the crew to test their knowledge. Suddenly, on Santa Fe, I didn’t know all the answers and I became curious. This helped me learn the technicalities I needed to learn and I remained curious from then on.
How to Practice Being Curious:
 Lowenstein, George. “Curiosity” Encyclopedia of Psychology. 414-415
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