Read an article at Harvard Business Review yesterday a.m. called Why Some People Have All the Luck. Anthony Tjan says that lucky people have the right attitude (nevermind all those idea killers with their bad attitudes who dampen moods and throw wrenches into cultures of curiosity and creativity). Luck attracts luck. It’s all a part of that theory of wishing that things will happen and then they do. One of three aspects the lucky possess is intellectual curiosity. Here’s how Tjan couches it:
Intellectual curiosity is an active response to humility. Humility gives people the capacity to be intellectually curious. Conversely, people who are fully confident or arrogant are less likely to question their personal assumptions and outlook of the world. Business builders who are intellectually curious hold a voracious appetite to learn more about just about anything. They devour reading, listen to suggestions, and explore new ideas at a much higher rate than others. They are more frequently asking questions than trying to answer them. Ultimately they become luckier because they are more willing to meet new people, ask new questions, and go to new places.
So what does this have to do with librarians, libraries, and librarianship?
One of the first things we learn as librarians is that we cannot know the answers to every question, and that in itself requires humility. However, our LIS/SIS training endows us with the skills to locate those answers. Having open minds, loosening our curiosity, and putting our Miss Marple, Monsieur Poirot, or Encyclopedia Brown on the trail of the articulated reference questions leads librarians on professional paths to luck.
Naturally, while at the reference desk, we meet new people who ask us new questions. We in turn ask them new questions. Sometimes, we travel to new places, at least in our minds, and explore new subjects and gain new expertise, at least at the surface level–and that’s adequate for government work.
But perhaps you know librarians who are stuck in a rut? Who don’t explore new areas; they have three or four pet subjects and dare not venture out from those disciplines, much less consider thinking across disciplines? Yikes! Is there hope? Can we cultivate curiosity? It is a personality trait. But yes, Virginia, there is hope. You can try new dishes at restaurants, explore new areas of knowledges (which librarians do daily–duh!), break your routine, and find new peer groups.
Peter Bromberg writes about cultivating cultures of curiosity in organizations, i.e., libraries, but doesn’t give step-by-step instructions. Mostly, he reveals this must be a shared value. And so it seems that library teams should work as a group in some type of team-building activity to mind-meld into their creative culture if there isn’t one. Still working on ideas for those, though.
Yet… the Bamboo Project Blog offers ideas along this vein–she also cites Peter B.– like encouraging beginners mind, personal reflection, spending time with preschoolers, and thinking about big questions.
Curiously, Todd Henry, also at HBR, suggests the more stimuli we take in, the more creative we become. He’s probably a secret librarian. I like his idea about compiling bibliography:
Curating a reading list of stimulating articles and books is a great way to forge new neural connections that are likely to yield creative insights. Recording observations can also reveal serendipitous connections.
Coincidentally, within three or four days of each other two different people mentioned the same book, Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, as a starting place for transformation. Naturally, I applied this to transformation of library culture, though one of them, Brian Mathews mentioned it in that regard. If you’re curious and asking why, then Start With Why seems like the obvious place. James Kelley, Education Technology Consultant for Apple, mentioned it at a RODP mobilization initiative in reference to higher education, or K-12, even, at an event I attended prior to ALA, and then Mathews cites it in his Ubiquitous Librarian post, “Why does my library use social media?” at the Chronicle.
While most rote directional reference questions bore us, occasionally one piques our intellect, stirs our curiosity, and may challenge our assumptions of the world. Libraries as place offer a ripe environments for lifelong learning both as centers for on-the-job professional development for librarians and for the regular folk who luxuriate in our space.
Anyway, this HBR article resonated with me because it relates so well with my post two days ago about curiosity and how reading broadly outside of your professional literature, no matter what profession you work within is imperative for innovation and professional development.