Curiosity and looking back

In the organization I'm currently working with I met a person who's worked there for 44 years, and all in the same building. Many members of the workforce are long serving and it's a challenge now that the whole office is moving to a new building to develop a pragmatic approach to the emotional trauma many are feeling about the move in a way that will enable seamless business continuity. Somehow we have to encourage people who wouldn't dream of moving to a new job, new office, new house, etc. to at least keep an open mind about what it will mean for them. I have to hold back on judging them for being less than adventurous, and tap into the vast organizational knowledge they have to add value to the move in some way.

Pursuing this thought this took me to a coaching website that I get a regular email newsletter from (Life Trek Coaching). I remembered that last week's 'lecturette' had been on curiosity. The writer suggested that 'the key to unleashing curiosity is letting go of fear. Nothing squelches curiosity more than being afraid to fail, or being afraid of making mistakes, or being afraid of embarrassing oneself. Curious people live by the mantra "fail often to succeed sooner".

I'm curious on two counts about the long-servers. One – does long service in the same role, in the same building, with the same organization suggest these people are lacking in curiosity and/or are afraid of something? Two, assuming that this might be the case (I haven't tested it) what is the best thing to do to help them be curious about the move and less fearful of it? We don't want people to leave in droves because they can't face a different commute to work.

Pondering this I came across a snippet about gloomy unemployment numbers and low workplace morale – we don't want the move to engender low morale either. So reading that "building a more committed workforce can be as simple as asking employees to reflect on their company's history" caught my attention. The researchers suggest that:

"Institutions that can communicate a compelling historical narrative often inspire a special kind of commitment among employees. It is this dedication that directly affects a company's success and is critical to creating a strong corporate legacy," said author Adam Galinsky.

"Our study demonstrates that this process is a universal one, applying also to countries and personal connections," said another of the researchers. Galinsky added that these results suggest "that this link is an endemic aspect of the human mind. Ruminating on origin stories and reflecting back on what might have happened rather than what actually took place leads to increased commitment."

Once a business (or even a country government) identifies key turning points, it should make reference to them in its origin story with a focus on how things could have turned out differently. The result is a renewed sense of devotion that is an inherent factor in an institution's overall success and crucial to its ability to prosper within the current, fragile state of the economy.

This suggested that asking the long servers to tell stories about the history of the organization, the various turns it has taken, the challenges it has met, and how they've handled these event effectively might provide a path to helping them feel curious about the stories they'll be able to tell about the forthcoming move. So I'll give that some more thought.

Going back to being curious the Life Trek Coaching piece mentioned the Martin Seligman site Authentic Happiness (University of Pennsylvania). There you can take a free test to identify your signature strengths. (You have to register). I went to take a look and found that I'd taken the test (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) in July 2004 so I took it again today. In 2004 my top two strengths were 'curiosity and interest in the world' and 'hope optimism and future mindedness.' Six years on nothing has changed! Those are still my top two strengths.

The Life Trek piece finishes with some questions How curious are you? What would it take for you to unleash even more curiosity? What is one adventure you would like to embark upon right now? How could that adventure enrich your life and the lives of others? How could you bring curiosity to bear to the challenges you face at work? At home? In life?

Thinking of the moving adventure these may be useful to ask the people nervous about moving.

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