The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. By 2020, we will be part of a technological revolution that will change how we live, work, and relate to one another. Its magnitude, and the degree of transformation that we will experience, will be unlike anything we’ve ever known. A key question for the workforce today –  how to keep up, and what kind of skills to develop, so that we remain relevant. As crucial as technological skills are, softer life skills are beginning to claim importance too. A central one in this context: curiosity.

Curiosity is not just a buzzword. It has been proven to have employability benefits, and is a predictor of our ability to gain and maintain a desired job over time. Not just that. It may even be an antidote to job automation: critical to prevent our skills from getting outdated or outsourced to machines. And being curious also makes us more approachable and willing people! The good news – it can be honed as a skill. Here’s how.

  • Move beyond existing strengths. Playing to our strengths and core skills is a great way to maintain consistency of performance, and enable deeper subject matter or domain expertise. Think of what people appreciate you for, or what kind of projects you are comfortable taking on. Those will highlight your strengths. However, there is evidence that taking a strength to an extreme is always detrimental to performance. Even a mild tendency to overdo it can be harmful. The solution to that – building on our so called ‘weaknesses’ or improvement areas. How? Do the opposite of what you feel comfortable doing!
  • Reduce distractions. One of the biggest pitfalls of technological revolution – attention deficit due to sustained distractions. Surprisingly, this is also considered to be a dark side of curiosity, as we constantly seek something new or different to give our attention to. But that’s what helps us learn as well. How do we bring about a balance then? By seeking depth and meaning in the multiple things our mind wanders towards. Instead of reading the Facebook news feed, can we do our own research? How about in-person conversations? The essence of curiosity lies in engagement. Not killing time.
  • Choose psychological diversity. It’s not just to do with demographics. Diversity comes in many unseen forms. People differ most substantially in their thinking styles, and these differences are the product of culture as well as personality. And here lies a path to curiosity – being with people who are different from you. Try to work out how they think, why they do what they do, and what makes them tick. It will break your prejudices, undo biases, and make you a more open person! A wider mind = more curiosity.

Wondering if this skill really works? Go try it out!

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