Remember what got you started in the world of business? Your first ideas, your drafts, your
drawing boards? As a novice, you were probably acting on curiosity rather than expertise or
excitement rather than surety. This curiosity mindset is what set you apart and made your ideas
worth implementing. It may even have been the driving factor behind where you are today.

Yet despite the inherent value of curiosity in the workplace and its positive impact on our lives,
so many of us suffer from complacency in business. As time passes, we lose our spirit of
interrogation and exploration. We get stuck in the same patterns of recognition and reward. We
stop being curious and fail to look critically at our successes and failures.

Expertise complacency is an extremely common phenomenon whereby knowledge experts and
skilled leaders lose the will (and therefore the ability) to continue learning and improving.
Experts feel a lot of confidence, but they also fear losing what they’ve worked so long and hard
for. This fear-induced stasis leads to further innovation suckers, like not examining successes and
not taking risks. 

Why Curiosity Is Important in Business

Knowledge and expertise in business are fundamental tenets and necessary for growing a
reputation and creating products and services that work really well. However, the value of
curiosity in the workplace cannot be overstated.

Here's why curiosity is important in business: 

4 Practical Methods to Overcome Complacency in Business

Complacency in business can be, at best, a limiting factor and, at worst, a destructive force.
Either way, you can fight complacency by stimulating and encouraging a curiosity mindset and
showing your team how to tap into the value of curiosity in the workplace. Here's how to get
started: 

  1. Find your 'curiosity zone.'
    Practicing curiosity doesn’t mean you have to leap into unexplored territory or become a
    complete novice. Your ideal zone of curiosity will be an area in which you have some experience
    or a little knowledge but no certainty or preconceived answers. This balance keeps curiosity alive
    without you getting lost in the fog. Here, you can start trying new things and get comfortable
    with the feeling of uncertainty, recognizing what can and cannot be controlled.
  2. Bring new curiosity to old problems.
    Innovation can happen anywhere; it’s not just for discovering a totally new technology or a cure
    for cancer. Reinvent the wheel, whatever that means to your business, by thinking in new
    ways about old problems. Encourage employees to do this, too, by hosting engaging activities
    like hack-a-thons or curiosity clubs​.
  3. Collaborate with curious outsiders.
    To make a success of your curiosity mindset, you’ll need a collection of curious friends to help.
    Invite others to join your mission, ask external eyes to weigh in on your plans, and find fresh
    perspectives however you can to help you see old problems in new ways. Curiosity is
    contagious; if you surround yourself with curious people, you will start to find it easier to
    cultivate a curiosity mindset. Moreover, you’ll start to create an environment where your
    curiosity rubs off on your team.
  4. Play the long game.
    Curiosity is for life, not just for the next performance review. A curiosity mindset takes time and
    experimentation to build and nurture. It won’t solve your problems in one day. So stick with it.
    Develop a state of curiosity about your curiosity mindset — by exploring new subjects over time,
    setting up experiments, and watching the reactions. The most important method of tapping into
    the value of curiosity in the workplace is just by creating a workplace where questions are
    favored over answers and people feel safe to voice their ideas. 

    Knowledge and expertise in business can only get you so far; rely on them for too long, and your
    organization will forget how to grow. Bring new light onto those old roots by cultivating a
    curiosity mindset, not just in yourself but in your whole team.

Forget asking for advice. Here's a radical approach that could change everything:

It's called a Clearness Committee, and it's a Quaker practice that dates back to the 1660s.

But don't let its age fool you - it's a tool that's more relevant for leaders than ever.

Here's how it works:

Gather a group of trusted colleagues - but not to give you their opinions or solutions.

Instead, their job is to ask you honest, open questions.

Questions that help you tap into your own inner wisdom and find clarity.

No fixing, no advising, no steering.

Just deep listening and powerful inquiries.

As a leader, this can be transformative.

I've started teaching Clearness Committees in my Curiosity Workshops.

And the results are profound.

Leaders understand that it feels much more energizing and engaging to have others ask you questions rather than give advice.

They lean into these conversations rather than get defensive to well-intentioned suggestions.

And the solutions they find are often more innovative than anything they could have come up with on their own.

All because of the power of asking instead of telling.

What complex challenge are you facing right now?

What if you gathered a Clearness Committee and tried this approach?

You might be surprised at the wisdom and clarity that emerges - not from others, but from within yourself.

Breaking the Expertise Trap

When it comes to work, expertise is the far-off horizon we’re all striving to reach. You want to
become smarter and wiser. You want to know more and gather more experiences under your belt.
You may even strive to receive public acclaim or awards.

Yet even if you manage to reach some form of expertise, it can often be a poisoned chalice if you
don’t know how to wield it properly. 

Instead of enabling its owner to make better choices and overcome challenges, expertise can
become a barrier to growth 
and can often keep you from continuing to learn and adapt.

What Are the 3 Biggest Expertise Traps?

There are three major traps that will make life more challenging when you start to feel like an
expert. They are the following:

  1. You stop trying to learn. 
    While having confidence in your skills is important and healthy, feeling like you’ve “grown out”
    of learning can be detrimental to your career. You lose the incentive to improve and grow, which
    are vital drivers in today’s rapidly changing world. If you lose the desire to learn, you stop
    changing, and change is essential for continuously thriving over time. 

  2. You stop examining your success. 
    In the early days, you are hypersensitive to success. You look for it everywhere and analyze the
    moves that led to a win. Because the beginner mindset is honed on success, you are able to learn
    from past mistakes and keep improving. But expertise can cut you off from this analytical,
    backward-looking mode, so you are less connected to what’s working and what isn’t. This makes
    sustained success difficult to achieve and may even cause you to falter where you wouldn't have
    previously.

  3. You stop taking risks. 
    The third expertise trap is about the safety of expertise. When you have scaled a peak and
    reached the top, it can be tempting to stop looking around for new challenges. You don’t want to
    fall or fail. But when you stop challenging yourself, you limit your potential for growth. Your
    comfort zone begins to shrink, and as the novices around you experiment and expand the
    possibilities of their industries, you stay still.

    These expertise traps hinder both individuals and their organizations. 

    On an individual level, professionals experience decreased adaptability. They’re less able to shift according to the climate around them, including to new technologies. They may even actively resist change and cling stubbornly to their existing skills. This state of stagnation cannot last because there will always be others willing to experiment and test the boundaries with creative approaches. 

    On an organizational level, stagnation leads to an inability to adapt to changes in the market. An organization full of its own expertise is less likely to pay close attention to emerging trends and the shifting demands of consumers. A loss of engagement follows, with team members perhaps feeling disconnected, behind the times, and lacking in purpose. Teams themselves can suffer if stagnation leads to homogeneity rather than diversity.

The Benefits of Continuous Learning at Work

Why is continuous learning the antidote to the expertise trap? For starters, continuous learning
recognizes that work isn’t something you train for just once. Degrees and courses cannot prepare
you for the way the world changes. Even the “school of life” will be useless if you treat it like a
one-and-done thing. 

The benefits of continuous learning at work are increased agility, an increased capacity for
change, and the ability to unlock visionary thinking. Continuous learning practitioners are
experts, yes, but they also stay nimble and humble about their expertise. They continue to assess
new situations and challenges in the world around them in order to evolve, innovate, and make
future plans. 

After all, what is business expertise without the ability to apply it to today’s market challenges?

How to Build a Continuous Learning Environment in the Workplace

The qualities gained from continuous learning form an ongoing defense against expertise traps,
allowing leaders to engage in and adapt to a world in flux. The question is: How to build a
continuous learning environment in the workplace when the workplace itself is changing so
much?

  1. Lead by example.
    You can go a long way toward creating a culture of continuous learning in your organization by
    modeling it for your team. Show employees what you mean by continuous learning by
    demonstrating a passion for your own skill development. Engage in learning opportunities, keep
    up to date with training, upskill, and share your learnings with your colleagues to cultivate an
    environment where continuous learning happens naturally and isn’t intimidating. 
  2. Prioritize real-world scenarios.
    Leaders can make continuous learning easier by connecting it to real-world situations as often as
    possible. Develop and practice active learning strategies in your workplace, methods that involve hands-on experience. Try a day where people shadow their colleagues in different roles or split up familiar teams into new groups and give them a real-world problem to solve. These strategies make learning more dynamic, memorable, and enjoyable. 
  1. Invite new eyes in.
    As mentioned above, expertise can make a leader complacent and less able to change. They can
    develop blind spots and be unable to see what needs changing. Inviting an external perspective
    into your work environment could shed much-needed light on your current approach and show
    you which areas could benefit from a shake-up. Collaborating with other experts, including those
    from different industries, roles, and generations, could turn continuous learning into insights and
    innovations you can use. 

    Interested in learning more about the Expertise Trap and how to break out of this cycle? Get in
    touch with me
     and let’s discuss how to get into a more positive, productive mindset through
    continuous learning.

Do you know the story of Ronald Wayne, Apple’s third co-founder?

He knew Steve Jobs from their time together at Atari. And when Jobs and Woz started Apple, Ronald became the third co-founder and owned 10% of the company. 

He owned that stock for all of 12 days before he got cold feet. He thought that Jobs and Wozniak were just two crazy kids who might take on a lot of financial obligations that he would be responsible for. He had more assets than either of his co-founders and he let the fear take over.

Ronald sold his 10% interest in 1976 for $800. That stock would be worth over $100 Billion today 😮.

But this isn’t where the story ends. Ronald did it again in 1990! That year, he was cleaning out his filing cabinet and sold the original contract for the creation of Apple for $500. In 2011, that document sold at auction for $1.59 Million. 🤦🏻

Ok. So what’s going on here and how can we use some epic questions to help us avoid Ronald’s fate?

Ronald had legitimate fears. He wanted to protect himself. But he didn’t need to completely leave the opportunity in order to reduce his risk.

He could have asked:

1. Can I limit my financial exposure without selling ALL of the stock? Could he have sold back a portion of his stock in exchange for protection from any of the company’s liabilities?

2. What is an experiment I can run to see if this is a good decision? The moment he got spooked, Jobs had taken out a $15,000 loan to buy supplies to fulfill Apple’s first contract with a San Francisco computer store. Ronald was worried that this store was known for failing to pay its bills and Apple wouldn’t make money on the contract. Could this project have been an experiment Ronald could have afforded to take?

3. Who can I consult for a second opinion? Ronald could have sensed that he was having an emotional response to this situation, and thought, is there a handful of people I can speak with who might help me make a better decision or figure out how to reduce my liability?

Ronald Wayne's story is a powerful reminder to look beyond immediate fears and to recognize the potential of patience and vision.

Here's to making decisions that our future selves will thank us for! 🌟

Strategies for Learning From Failure (and How to Navigate Its 6 Stages)

No matter who you are, facing failure is hard. When we fail, our gut reaction is to turn around
and hide. Our survival instincts kick in to avoid embarrassment. Think about it. If you try ice
skating and have a bad fall, you can either decide that you aren’t good at ice skating and vow to
never try it again, or you can choose to return to the rink and improve gradually. By choosing to
keep going, we develop a growth mindset.

When people fail, they often rely on a sort of fight-or-flight response instead of asking, “How do
you learn from this?” People mistakenly think that failure is a direct reflection of their skill sets,
abilities, and talents. For instance, my biggest and most embarrassing failure was a startup I
started: Its growth skyrocketed quickly, and then it failed almost as dramatically.

The 6 Stages of Failure

Contrary to what many might believe, failure, like that of my startup, is not a one-step process.
We actually go through six different stages each time a setback occurs:

Stage 1: Denial

First, failure tends to produce early warning signs. Unfortunately, our cognitive biases will often
ignore these signals. Instead of accepting failure, we deny that it exists and focus on only
positive feedback. This deludes us into thinking that everything is going according to plan when,
in fact, it is not.

Stage 2: Doubling Down

When we first recognize a potential failure, our gut instinct is to double down, or “escalate
commitment
,” on decisions that aren’t going well. Instead of making a necessary pivot, we often
believe that we can turn things around if we just stay the course. In reality, we are only digging a
deeper hole.

Stage 3: Shame

Once our failure becomes undeniable, we quickly fall into the shame stage. This stage is rarely
visible to others, but it takes a significant toll on our self-esteem. The shame we feel from
failure worsens anxiety and hampers our engagement at work.

Stage 4: Defensiveness

Even though we quietly punish ourselves for our failures, we articulate to others numerous
reasons why it wasn’t our fault. We will blame individuals, systemic issues, or forces of nature

beyond our control for what happened. When in defensive mode, we may also tell ourselves that
there was nothing we could do differently, further shielding ourselves from learning from our
failures and preventing a growth mindset.

Stage 5: Moving on

After we’ve exhausted our defensive excuses with anyone who will listen, we usually attempt to
put the failure behind us and never speak of it again. We move forward; we find our next project.

Stage 6: Looking for the Assets

There’s a sixth stage that most people never take advantage of, but it’s the one that holds all the
opportunity.

During this stage, you sift through the rubble left by your failure and uncover all the potential
assets you’ve gained through your efforts — and those assets should exist, because nothing is
ever a 100% failure. This audit of the failed project involves identifying systems and processes
that you developed, relationships, insights, intellectual property, tools, and other lessons to
consider how your experience transforms your work. We take what worked, learn from what
didn’t, and create something new (and better).

That failed startup I started was my lowest point as a professional. And as soon as I figured out
where we had gone wrong, I started keeping a journal about the experience. I had to document
what went wrong and what I wished I could have done differently.

That journal eventually became my first book — a New York Times best-seller that has been
used in over 100 universities to teach entrepreneurship and innovation and helped me launch a
whole new career as a keynote speaker. My biggest success came as a result of my biggest
failure. But only because I decided to look for the assets rather than hiding from the shame.

To learn how to “fail better” each time, we must avoid getting stuck in any one stage of failure
and try to get to Stage 6 as quickly as we can. When you are inevitably faced with failure in the
future, remember these six stages and focus on that final leap toward new opportunity and
growth.

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