The choice and act of sustaining curiosity in the way we live our lives and do our work is one that we must actively make knowing we’re better with it than without. A lack of curiosity can only lead to a life where every stone has been left unturned. In this episode, I am joined by Dr. Diane Hamilton, the Founder and CEO of Tonerra Management Consulting and Co-Founder of DIMA Innovations. Dr. Diane is also a nationally syndicated radio host, keynote speaker, and the former MBA Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. Don’t pass up the chance to hear from a brilliant pillar of the business world!
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Curiosity And Crisis With Dr. Diane Hamilton
You are going to love this episode. In a crisis, how do you stay connected to the idea of being curious and moving forward? If that intrigues you at all and you want some instant tips that you can walk away with to stay in that sweet spot, that zone of the genius of curiosity to pull yourself through to move forward, you’re going to love our guest expert. Her name is Dr. Diane Hamilton, we got a chance to meet years ago. She’s the Founder and CEO of Tonerra, the Cofounder of DIMA Innovations, which is a consulting and media business. She’s nationally syndicated as a radio host, keynote speaker, the former MBA Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. What do you think the qualifications are to be there?
I was blessed enough to be on her show some time ago. She’s interviewed thousands and thousands of people. She’s well-connected. She has a best-selling book called Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential. Do you want to unlock your human potential? If you don’t want to unlock that human potential, then go watch Netflix or something like that. However, if you want to unlock your potential to take it to that next level, then you’re going to love what we’re going to talk about. There’s so much here with your background, Diane. Welcome to the show. It’s great to have you.
Thank you, Dan. That sounds great when you say it that way.
I want to dive right into it. You have such a diverse fascinating background because we’ve talked a lot about the different things you’ve done. Your sweet spot is curiosity. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s this whole thing around curiosity?
I’ve done a lot of things. I have a background in sales and marketing and education. Everything from working in pharmaceuticals to real estate to lending. You name it, I’ve done it. I was always interested in the next thing. What can I learn now? What can I do now? When I created my radio show, I did that after I was the MBA Program Chair at Forbes. When I was working there, I had interviewed a lot of people to set them up for our speaker events. I had a chance to interview, Ken Fisher. The billionaire behind Fisher Investments.
I thought he was interesting and fascinating. I enjoyed it. I never interviewed anybody and here I throw myself in with the billionaire genius, Ken Fisher. It was exciting and fun to talk to him. When I left there, I thought, “That was fun.” I never thought more about it but then I was going to be more involved in my speaking and consulting in that business. I started to be interviewed by more people. One of the first people who interviewed me at that point had a nationally syndicated radio show. I thought, “That sounds cool. How did you get that?” We started talking and I thought, “I want to start interviewing people,” because I was curious about what I had learned. We could learn from everybody.
I learned so much from Ken and everybody else. I thought, “This is fun.” I started doing that. As I was interviewing people, I thought, “These people are curious. They want to know everything about everything.” I remember interviewing Naveen Jain. He read everything. He was constantly learning the next thing. I met him at the Genius Network, which I know you are a part of. People like that were interesting to me because they explore and question everything.Curiosity is about getting out of your status quo. - Dr. Diane Hamilton Click To Tweet
In the meantime, I’m still teaching all these courses. I’ve taught thousands of online business courses for multiple universities throughout the years. Some of my students weren’t as curious. Some of them would be like, “Give me a fish, don’t teach me to fish,” kind of mentality. I’m like, “No, I want you to want to learn to fish.” I thought, “I’m going to write a book about curiosity.” I looked out there and I looked to see what was available for determining what kept people from being curious. You got to figure out what’s holding you back to fix it. I was stunned that there weren’t any assessments out there. They all just told you if you’re curious or not. I thought, “What if you’re not?” I was curious. That led to my book and my assessment that I created to help determine the things that keep people from being curious. That’s my main focus at Tonerra, my speaking and all the other stuff that I do. It’s all tied in. I am curious, I learn things and then I share it with everybody else.
We’re in one of the biggest crisis or correction in history, probably somewhere in a range between 1929 and 2011 situation. What is curiosity? Let’s start there.
Originally, I was just thinking of curiosity and wanting to explore things you never explored before. As I started to look into it, I started to think it’s about getting out of status quo thinking for organizations. I often share a story when I give a talk about a National Geographic research where they ring a bell in a doctor’s office. This woman went in for an eye doctor appointment thinking that’s all she’s there for. She was actually part of this thought experiment to see how people just go along with the status quo. Every once in a while, they ring this bell and everybody around her who were actors, she thought were patients, would stand up and sit down without any explanation at all. She looks around befuddled. What’s going on? About the third time, she gets up and sits down with them. She continues to do that and they thought, “Let’s take everybody out of the room to see what she’ll do.”
They call people back one at a time as if they are patients. Eventually, she’s alone in the room and they ring the bell. She stands up and she sits down without even having them there without knowing why. They go, “Let’s put real people in with her and see what they do.” They started having other people who think they’re going in for an eye exam. The first guy sitting next to her watches her get up and sit down with the bell the first time he’s in there. He says, “Why did you do that?” She said, “Everybody else was doing it. I thought I had to.”
The bell rings. What do you think he does and everybody else who they add? People follow along with what everybody else is doing without questioning why, without questioning why not, without questioning whatever. That’s what we see in organizations. I started to see that curiosity is about exploring, feeling safe to ask questions, present solutions and ask why not. It’s having this culture that gets away from the status quo because we all know what Marshall Goldsmith says, “What got you here won’t get you there.” I agree with that.
Speaking of that mindset. You mentioned Joe Polish and Genius Network, which is how we got connected. My perception of Joe is he’s probably the most curious person I’ve ever met. I’ve been around him for a lot of years and his mind is always looking for what’s next? What’s better? What is a different way to do this? What’s a different look? Is this a DNA trait? Is it something we’re born with? Is it something we develop? Speak to that a little bit.
We’re all born with curiosity. There’s the curiosity gene. The Max Planck Institute coined that term. If you think about it, animals and everybody, we all have to be curious. If you’re a bird and you’re flying around a bush with berries and you don’t have enough curiosity to look for another bush, what happens when you run out of berries? We need the berries. We need to explore and we’re all born with high levels of curiosity. I remember getting on a bus in Vail and this little cute Hispanic girl and her mother got on the bus. In the back, you could hear her with her mother going, “Por Que, mama?” 100 times which means, “Why?” No matter what language, we’re all kids at that point asking, “Why?” As cute as I thought it was and you can see the mother like she’s heard enough of it, that’s what happens as we get older. You could only ask so much sometimes where it’s hard for everybody to answer every single question.
If you look at the research, we peak around age five on our levels of curiosity. There are a lot of great talks about this. Sir Ken Robinson has a great TED Talk. George Land has a great talk. They focus on creativity. To some extent, they’re tied in. You look at the peak of creativity and curiosity, it’s around age five and then it tanks as we get to be older. That was what I was curious about. It’s like, “How do we stop that? What is causing it so that we can reverse it?”
Speaking of that as you’re reading, what would it be worth to you to be able to know how to stimulate it immediately? How to slow it down if you got too much shiny object syndrome around curiosity and develop that happy medium? Maybe you’re a parent and you have kids. I want to ask you about this for my kids because one of our kids is highly curious. One of my other kids in the same house, the same social, all the dynamics being similar and a lot of the similar stimulation. My daughter is not as curious as my son, which is so interesting. I want to get into that. If you’re wondering that maybe for your team or maybe for you personally. Most importantly, how to maximize your human potential? How curiosity can help you do that? We’re going to take a deeper dive. Diane is going to share some strategies you can put in place to be able to use curiosity to maximize your human potential and give you some steps to take.
Diane, I’m fascinated by the idea of curiosity. I’m thinking of my own kids. I’m a little selfish here. Maybe through my kids or as you’re reading, maybe it’s a team member you have, maybe it’s your spouse, maybe it’s your kids, maybe it’s extended family. Whatever the case might be, ideally, you’ll learn. My wife and I were talking about my son. We got him involved in sports and he plays quarterback. He’s always asking, “Why do we do this? Why do we do it this way?” He’s constantly wanting to understand the 360 view of this. He’ll sometimes go and do it a little bit different than what he’s being shared, which I love as a dad. I love this independent trait he’s got. My daughter is independent and strong. However, I don’t see and we don’t view the curiosity from her as much on the outside anyway. Maybe internally, she does. I want to get your perspective. Same home, same encouragement, same social dynamics, yet one seems to be more curious than the other by exponential factor. Can you speak to that a little bit? What’s the difference? What can we do?
Anybody who’s had more than one child will tell you they are completely different right from day one. I have two daughters seventeen months apart, complete opposites. Anybody who’s taken DISC, Myers Briggs or whatever test, you realize that you have certain innate preferences. Think of being right or left-handed. You prefer to write with your right hand, not that you can’t write with your left hand, but it’s a little more challenging or vice versa if you’re left-handed. We all have a certain amount of preferences for how we obtain information. Think of the introvert-extrovert differences in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, was such an impactful book because introverts look at how they want to do things differently than extroverts. We get value from everybody in society from different perspectives, but all impacted to some extent by the factors that I found that inhibit curiosity. Though not everybody is going to be equally as curious from day one, just like everybody’s not going to be equally extroverted or introverted or any aspects of our personality.
I saw my kids when they were little and how they turned out when they were older. It was completely different than you can even tell what they’re going to do. For one thing, my oldest was completely influenced at the age of fifteen by a cruise we had gone on, where all these girls were on board celebrating their fifteenth birthday from South America. That made her interested in every kind of language. She speaks four languages and she went off in a completely different realm than I would have ever expected. My youngest, when she was little, she was goofy. I always thought, “I hope she’s going to be okay.” She passed me like I was standing still super businesswoman.
You cannot tell what they’re going to do at certain ages, at least for my children. They both surpassed anything I ever thought, but they have totally different levels of curiosity. My youngest, no interest at all in languages. My oldest wants to learn every language in the world. I don’t know where the language thing came from. It’s the cruise maybe. You don’t know what’s going to spark certain things. That’s the environmental aspect of what influences us. I found four things influence curiosity. The environment is a big one.
What are some of the things that hold people back or get in the way of development of that curiosity? What should we do differently?The environment is one of the biggest factors that influence one's curiosity. - Dr. Diane Hamilton Click To Tweet
It was challenging for me to create the Curiosity Code Index because nobody else had done it. As I started to hire experts, psychometric statisticians and different people to give me advice on how to write assessments. They all kept writing the same assessment, they all kept measuring whether you’re curious or not. I go, “That’s not what I’m trying to do.” It took me years of research and I had to teach myself factor analysis again, which is not my favorite. I got into how to figure out what these four things were. It turned out there are four factors and the acronym is FATE. They stand for Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment.
What I started out doing was putting a question thread in LinkedIn to ask people what held them back because I was curious before I even got into this assessment. A lot of people were giving me fear-based things, which I was expecting. What I wasn’t expecting was some of these other things like technology or the assumptions. You don’t think about it, but the assumptions are the voice in your head and the things that you tell yourself. Environment, as we’re talking about that cruise, it was a huge impact on what made my daughter want to go off and learn all these languages. It can be a negative impact a lot of times. Maybe your kids have two different kinds of teachers at school. It’s everybody that they’ve ever come into contact with.
Maybe it’s easier to go through each one at a time. Let’s start with fear. If you think about how many meetings have you sat in where you think of a question you wanted to ask? You’re thinking, “I’m the only one. I don’t want to look stupid if I ask this question. Dan, why don’t you ask this,” and Dan will look stupid. “I don’t want to ask that question.” That’s how we are. We’ve had somebody in the past look at us like, “Really? Did you ask that?” Something has happened that makes us not want to do that.
When we were kids, it was different. We didn’t have all these crazy social media. In a classroom, in a collapsed environment like almost an incubator or vacuum, we could get bullied a little or made fun of or whatever. Now, it seems exponential. That happens in class and then there are photos all over the school. It’s all social media. It’s on all the different channels. How do you feel that that’s impacting, either inhibiting it or helping expand it? What could be done on either side of that?
It’s challenging. Some of these factors overlap. There are fear and environment. I lump social media and some of that stuff into environment. The fear of that happening is a huge thing. I hesitate all the time posting things. I saw somebody who’s a top well thought of speaker posted something on Twitter. He meant kindly like, “Let’s pray for everybody,” or something. He got slammed for using the word, pray. His intentions were good. With kids, their intentions are good. You’re not trying to upset somebody, but people are sensitive now.
It’s a tough time. That’s why my focus is on the workplace but I’d like to see this in schools and other places as well. Think about what we’re talking about in terms of the overall culture of what we find acceptable of how we treat people. In the workplace, I work with large organizations like Novartis and Verizon. They’re trying to create this culture of curiosity. To do that, leaders, teachers and parents have to realize it comes from above. We have to emulate what we would like to see. If we don’t do that and if it’s, “Do what I say, not what I do,” it’s not going to have the same impact.
Looking at Fear, Assumptions, Tech and Environment, we’ve got these potential roadblocks that get in our way, the voices, the things, the places we will go, Dr. Seuss. What can we do to stimulate and encourage a culture of curiosity? What are some action steps that our readers can take to be able to do that, to plant those right seeds for themselves and lead by example for whoever they influence?
There are many great leaders. Zander Lurie was on my show from SurveyMonkey. They definitely embrace a level of curiosity within their company because that’s what they do. They’re asking questions for everything that they do in their surveys. There are a lot of things you can do. At Novartis, 100 hours a year is their expectation. They’d like to have people learn something new and train. They pay for that. Whether it is taking an Audacity or some kind of a class online to learning or sharing about a book or doing whatever it is. They have all these different videos and archives of things that they can use. They get a certain amount of credit for doing certain things. They embrace it. They had a big curiosity wall, “This is what I’m curious about now,” and they all share that.
At Verizon, I was in New York. We created small bite videos from people within the company that shares like, “This is the importance of curiosity.” Along with what I was saying as an expert, they took examples of employees who went above and beyond and overcame things that kept them back for being curious. They did like Elon Musk where your parent maybe told you, “You can’t do anything, but then look at what I could do.” They shared positive examples.
Companies see the value. I’ve talked to CHRO groups, the C-level HR people. I’ve talked to everybody within organizations that have that focus on culture. They see the value in this. They’ve seen Francesca Gino‘s HBR articles. They’ve seen my research and a lot of other research. They know they want things. I try to explain it like baking a cake. When I’m talking to leaders, parents or whoever you’re talking to about how to develop curiosity and how important it is. Let’s look at what happens when you bake a cake. The outcome you want is a cake. You’re mixing the ingredients. Your ingredients might be flour, oil, eggs and whatever your ingredients are. You’re mixing them together. You stick them in a pan and you put it in the oven. What happens?
If you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get anything. The problem is in the workplace, we’re not turning on the oven. Let’s take a look at those things again. The end product instead of a cake is productivity and money. It’s what we want. Ingredients are drive, motivation, innovation, engagement and all the things that we know we want to help make this better, but nobody turns on the oven. That spark is curiosity. That’s what we need to be working on.
I’m thinking about this from a lot of different levels. Your two daughters, if we ask them, “How did your mom inspire and spark curiosity in you?” What do you think your daughters will each of them say?
A couple of things I do. I learned from my father. We used to play school a lot at the dinner table when I was a kid. My dad would ask us a question based on the level of our age. I was five years younger than my sister and eight and a half years younger than my brother. My questions were much easier than what they had. If you missed your question, you’d be a third of a hippopotamus or something. By the time you become a whole hippopotamus, they tickle you or whatever would be the punishment.
It was an exploration of learning things that you didn’t know anything about. He’d always ask me crazy stuff that I probably wouldn’t know like sports or something that I wasn’t interested in just to give me different things. I did a lot of that with my kids. I did a lot of exploration. I let them pick certain things, but I had an expectation that they would maybe pick a couple of sports, “You can do whatever ones you like, but I’d like you to do some exercise-based things with maybe some art things.” I gave them a well-rounded experience because I’m not crazy about sports. They were in baseball or softball. I made sure that they try things even if I didn’t like it, especially with food because I’m picky. I would make food, I hate it and then I’d drop it in my lap when they weren’t looking, so that they would try it. They’re good eaters but I’m not.Leverage curiosity to tap into your human potential. - Dr. Diane Hamilton Click To Tweet
I wanted them to have that experience, even if I didn’t like it. In my family, that was one thing. It was all sports. It was all one tunnel vision sometimes. When I got older, I started finding things that I liked. I’m like, “Why didn’t we do this? This is more fun.” I liked rock climbing, but I didn’t like tennis or whatever it was. Letting kids not have to be within that one thing that you like or that you think is so important only is critical.
That is such great advice. As you’re reading, there’s so much wisdom here that Diane is sharing with you. Diane, where can people go? We’ve just scratched it. There are 100 questions I want to ask but for sake of time. If people are interested and you’ve piqued their curiosity about curiosity, going deeper and tapping into human potential not only themselves but their teams and more. Where can people go to learn more about what you’re up to and that sort of thing?
Anybody who wants to become certified to give the Curiosity Code Index can do so. They get five hours of SHRM recertification credit and they can teach their organizations. A lot of HR professionals and consultants want to do that. You can also just take the assessment as an individual if you want. It is all at CuriosityCode.com but to reach me, you can also get to the Curiosity stuff from my main website, DrDianeHamilton.com and on all the social media areas. You can find me @DrDianeHamilton. You can find me everywhere.
If you’re looking for a way to use curiosity to leverage curiosity, to tap into your human potential, your team’s potential, to work with your kids better, your family better or your organization, I encourage you to go to CuriosityCode.com or go over to her site at DrDianeHamilton.com. Diane, what is something I should have asked you that we didn’t get a chance to cover yet?
What I’m working on next maybe. My next book is on perception. I created another assessment, the Perception Power Index. I’m co-authoring that book with Dr. Maja Zelihic. We work together at the Forbes School of Business. I’m the former MBA Program Chair and she’s the current MBA Program Chair there. We were interested in perception and how to get along in the workplace in terms of looking at it from a combination of IQ, EQ for emotional intelligence, CQ for Curiosity Quotient and another CQ for Cultural Quotient combined into one thing.
Can people go learn more about that, and you’ve got some things that you’re updating on your site at, Dr. Diane Hamilton?
They can look at my site. There are a lot of good articles about perception I’ve written on Forbes as well. You can search Dr. Diane Hamilton Perception and find articles everywhere.
If you’re looking to use curiosity, leverage curiosity to tap into your human potential, go check out what she’s doing at CuriosityCode.com. What are 1 to 3 action steps that you would hope our readers would take from our time?
I have these little things. They’re great and I use it in my training. You can write down some of the things that hold you back from fear. Write down some of these things that hold you back and create actionable steps to overcome things for fear and for assumptions. Things that you’re telling yourself that make you not want to try something because you think, “I don’t like it.” Technology, are you over or underutilizing it? What kind of basic information could you learn that you haven’t? Your environment, who has told you things that maybe we all need to be doctors in this family? Maybe we all need to do certain things that you don’t like to do and you never thought about it. Ask yourself, what kinds of things are going through your mind? Write down what things are holding you back and you can create a personal SWOT analysis on how to overcome those threats and weaknesses, and develop an action plan.
To the audience, what is holding you back? What is holding you back from the perspective of fear? What is the impact of that that’s holding you back? What if you don’t make the shift? What is it costing you in freedom, in growth, in peace of mind, in being able to have the impact you want to have, in being able to go out and do the things that you want to do around assumptions, technology or the environment? How is it impacting you? What if one domino that you tip over as a result of the strategies here and/or going through her resources, tips over 100 that transforms you to unlock your human potential, to unlock your team’s potential. What would that be worth to you? I encourage you to go check out her resources. Go to CuriosityCode.com. A couple of last things, I’m curious. Growing up, it sounds like you had a strong family culture, a supportive one. You brought up sports. What was your least favorite sport as a kid?
I was a swimmer, so that was my most favorite. I didn’t like going to the tennis classes. I wish I would. My sister was a state tennis champ. My brother was a coach of a country club of tennis. Everybody was into tennis and I think I was too young to get on board with it at an early time. I think I would like it at this point, but my joints don’t like it so much. Some things you can’t do when you get older. I never was a big fan of team sports. I liked individual like running. I don’t think I would have been great on basketball, baseball and those kinds of things. I like the speed factor, the swimming, that type of thing. I’ve liked rock climbing in my old age and I can bolt well. I’ve got a 276 once and I’m holding on to that.
That’s impressive. Who was the first early influence that you remember that you think set you on the path to be doing what you do?
My family was curious. I had a teacher when I was in 7th and 8th grade. I dedicated the book to him. You might see Steve Forbes on the front of my book and billionaire, Keith Krach, wrote the foreword for my book. If you look at the dedication, it’s, “To Tom Tate who was my 7th and 8th-grade Algebra teacher.” He made me look at math in such a unique way that it made me love it. He was crazy acting in class. He would climb on the chalkboard and yell at it or get in the closet and scream out. He did all these crazy things. I would watch him and I thought, “This is the greatest thing ever.” You go into history and it would be so boring, and then I go to his class. It made me have a passion for enthusiasm. It made me see that even math could be fun and interesting. I think he had a strong impact on me.
It sounds like it because math can be interesting in and of itself. As you’re reading what’s that worth for you or your kid? You’re going to get some of those strategies in the Curiosity Code process. Go to CuriosityCode.com. Last question, you’ve been married for many years. If you were to turn to your husband if he was near you and say thank you for how he showed up to support you, what would you say to that?
He is one of the most amazingly supportive guys. No matter what crazy thing I want to try next, he’s onboard. He’s not bored by it. He’s with me. That’s important because sometimes people grow in opposite directions. We’ve been together for many years, a long time. If you think about it, it would be so easy to say, “You go this way. I’ll go this way,” but we do everything together. We spend a lot of time trying new things. Even if we don’t like it, we give it a shot because the other one wants to try it. That’s important.
If you’re reading, what would it be worth to unlock and stimulate your Curiosity Quotient, your CQ? How would it impact you especially in times like this, with turbulent times? If you’re reading this after turbulent times of coming on, in good times too. It doesn’t matter, good and bad. Up seasons, down seasons, winter seasons, fall seasons, summer season, spring, curiosity is magic. It can help unlock your human potential. It can help unlock your team, your kids, and more. You can go learn more about Diane and what she’s up to at CuriosityCode.com.
We’ve got many resources she talked about. The idea of what are the four things that inhibit people from tapping into curiosity, Fear, Assumptions, Tech and the Environment. She talked about an action plan. What to do next around this and asking the right questions. She shared some fascinating stories. If you never want to miss an episode go to GrowthToFreedom.com/subscribe. Seize the day. Make it a great week. We’ll see you next time on GrowthToFreedom.com.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Show – Dan Kuschell on Take The Lead Radio episode
- Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential
- Ken Fisher – previous episode of Take The Lead Radio
- Naveen Jain – previous episode of Take The Lead Radio
- Genius Network
- Max Planck Institute
- Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk
- George Land TED Talk
- Curiosity Code Index
- Francesca Gino
- @DrDianeHamilton – Instagram
- Dr. Maja Zelihic
About Dr. Diane Hamilton
Dr. Diane Hamilton is the Founder and CEO of Tonerra, and Co-Founder of DIMA Innovations, which are consulting and media-based businesses. She is a nationally syndicated radio host, keynote speaker, and the former MBA Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. She has authored multiple books that are required in universities around the world, including Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential.
She is the creator of the Curiosity Code Index® assessment, which is the first and only assessment that determines the factors that inhibit curiosity. Her groundbreaking work in the area of curiosity helps organizations improve innovation, engagement, and productivity. Thinkers50 Radar chose her as one of the top minds in management and leadership. Her work has been endorsed by some of the most respected names in leadership.