Curiosity and the Limitations of Assumption

Published On: February 22, 2023Categories: Blog

Have you ever really sat down and thought about what it means for something to be a paradigm? It’s one of those words that we sort of understand intuitively, but what does it really mean? In dictionary terms, it really just means a “typical example” of something, or a recurring pattern–but in common usage, we tend to say it to mean a way of thinking or manner of behaving that has been assumed by our dominant culture.

In other words, a paradigm is something we assume to be true or right, but may not be rooted in fact or logic and may instead just be a belief or behavior that exists through a sense of cultural inertia. Not all paradigms are bad, of course, but when we hear of a “paradigm shift,” it’s usually because people have started reflecting on something without preconceived assumptions and instead with a renewed sense of curiosity.

In the workplace, unquestioned paradigms can often be a force holding the organization back from real, meaningful change–in order to dramatically improve, an organization needs to practice curiosity and question the pre-existing paradigmatic assumptions that may be leading to stagnation or inefficiency. This sense of curiosity is at the heart of all four core pillars of the FISH! Philosophy, so let’s take a look at how our assumptions can hold us back–and how getting curious can help us keep moving forward.

Be There: Be curious about others’ feelings

Far too often, unhappiness festers unchecked in a workplace because of the assumptions we make about others. “Sarah’s been a little quiet lately,” we think. “But she must just be tired; I’m sure she’s fine!” But when we go and talk to Sarah? It turns out she’s overburdened by complicated projects, feeling unsupported by her management team, and has nobody to talk to.

That’s why the FISH! Philosophy stresses the core pillar of Be There. When we show up for our colleagues emotionally, when we ask them about their day, about their troubles, and about their lives, and when we listen to them actively and give them the support they need, we become tighter as a team and more effective as an organization. But this requires curiosity–we can no longer just assume people are doing alright as an excuse for not being there; we need to be proactive about building these connections so that we can avoid problems before they grow.

Play: Be curious about potential solutions 

Play is all about curiosity. In fact, curiosity is truly the heart and soul of what it means to Play in the workplace. When we approach a challenging project or problem with no curiosity, we often become defensive and guarded of our own proposed solutions, shooting down others because we assume we know best. When an entire organization fails to Play with new ideas, that organization tends to fall apart in the face of challenges, or simply default to past, non-ideal resolutions without grappling with new, potentially better options.

As we’ve discussed before, to Play is more than just tossing a ball back and forth–it means approaching problems with curiosity and an open-minded willingness to hear all possible solutions. It means listening closely to our colleagues, not just in spite of their ideas that we may assume are unworkable, but specifically for those ideas, as tossing novel ideas back and forth can result in new, far more effective solutions than would otherwise be possible.

Make Their Day: Be curious about what others need 

Just like how Being There requires us to have curiosity about the feelings of others, to Make Their Day requires us to apply that same curiosity to what they need to feel a certain way. Have you ever tried to comfort a friend or partner and ended up saying exactly the wrong thing, only to realize that you said what you’d have wanted to hear, without considering them as a unique individual? Or given someone what you felt was a great gift, only for them to react with indifference? It’s the same idea here.

To truly make someone’s day, you have to know what actions, words, and behaviors will positively impact them, rather than just assuming that what makes you happy will make them happy as well. For example, a giant, all-office birthday song might be what you’ve always wanted, but to the office introvert, a nice cupcake and a thoughtful, privately-shared birthday card may be far better received. Being curious about the wants and needs of others will help you Make Their Day far more effectively! 

Choose Your Attitude: Be curious about yourself 

To Choose Your Attitude is to self-reflect, understand what your feelings are in any given moment, and ask yourself if those are the feelings you want to influence your behavior in that situation and the day ahead. Self-awareness is a difficult process, and one that can’t even be started without a sense of curiosity towards your own thoughts and feelings. Far too often we treat our emotions as assumed; that is, we go with our gut reaction and let it control us without questioning if it makes sense to do so, or if that’s even what we’re really feeling.

When we choose to practice curiosity towards our own emotions, we can have our eyes truly opened–we discover feelings we didn’t know we had, make connections that weren’t apparent before, and learn how to better guide ourselves towards the behaviors and outcomes we want to see.

Ideas to Reflect On:

  • What assumptions do you make about your workplace or work colleagues? How might those assumptions be holding you back personally and professionally?
  • What’s one opportunity in the next work week for you to practice approaching with a more curious mindset? What do you hope to get out of doing so?
  • Do you reflect with curiosity on your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? If not, consider how doing so might help increase your self-awareness and your ability to Choose Your Attitude.

Want to Implement FISH! in your organization?

Are you a leader?  Do you train others?  Do you want others to be leaders?

Charthouse Learning, the creator of the world-famous, award-winning, FISH! film is offering an in-person, 2-day workshop, interactive Train-the-Trainer lead by our Senior Trainer this April in Minneapolis, MN.

During our time together you’ll learn how to:

  • Share the motivation and foundation of FISH!
  • Introduce the FISH! film with the four practices.
  • Present the invitation to apply the practices in everyday interaction with others.
  • Build a sustainability and reinforcement program to transform the culture.
  • Pick up tips from other FISH! Philosophers and develop a strategy to embed the practices into the DNA of your culture.
  • Create an energized organization that is the “first choice” for employees, faculty, staff, leaders, and customers.

Plus, you will learn how to create a workplace where people choose to “be and bring” their best self everywhere, every day.

At the FISH! Train the Trainer you will:

  • Dive Deep: Discover The FISH! Philosophy – full of “A-ha!” takeaways and perspective-shifting realizations.
  • Transform: Make the four FISH! practices – Play, Be There, Make Their Day and Choose Your Attitude – an essential part of your professional and personal skill set.
  • Discover: Learn practical ways to apply the FISH! practices to improve teamwork, service, leadership, retention and performance.
  • Develop: Brainstorm strategies to embed The FISH! Philosophy into the DNA of your culture, strengthening your mission, vision and values.
  • Collaborate: Learn and laugh with like-minded folks from across the globe.

Click Here for More FISH! Train the Trainer Information

Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and introduce Play into your organization. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!

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