Why Curiosity Makes People More Successful

October 24th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Curiosity is an indicator of success, both in business and life. As an FBI agent, I found that curiosity about people was my best tool to become a successful investigator. The more I knew about the people I was investigating, the more reliable the information I acquired.

As a business owner, entrepreneur, or leader, you know that curiosity about your competition, the market, and the people surrounding you is what pulls you to the front of the pack.

Curiosity is a thirst for knowledge and the need to hunt for answers to these questions: “What is this?” and “How does it work?” It’s an exercise in mental toughness because it requires a mindset that keeps people moving forward and doing new things that starts them on the path to new discoveries.

Curiosity does not have to be a natural strength in order for you to be successful. Even if you do not see yourself as a perpetual learner, you can learn tricks from the trade by following these three tips:


You will always achieve better results if you have the curiosity to probe deeper into the needs of the market, clients, or team members. Make each question an open-ended one that start with “Why, How, When, or Where?” These questions invite reflection and start a discussion.

Always avoid questions that can be answered with either a “Yes” or “No.” They do not invite additional discussion and rarely yield any insight.

Tip For You:

Effective Questions To Use are:

  • Specific. Focus on the area of concern by asking specific questions, not vague ones. Notice words that are freighted with feeling or energy because they have more meaning to the person who is talking. Once you hear one of those words, follow up with an open-ended question.
  • Paced. When we’re accustomed to having all the answers, we can get uncomfortable with periods of silence. Rapid-fire questions are exhausting—for everyone. Don’t try to comment on every remark after you’ve asked a question. It is amazing what you can learn by letting people move at their own pace. The more you listen, the more informed your comments will become. Often, the real issue is not touched upon until you’ve gone several questions deep.
  • Polite. Good manners matter. Showing respect for the other person is the single most important thing you can do for them.
  • Focused. Good questions are goal-oriented. Be clear about your goals before you begin because it will be easier to frame your question. Understand why you’re asking a question before you ask it.
  • Honest. Manipulation is akin to extortion—it may get you what you want, once, but it doesn’t build long-term relationships.

Ineffective Questions To Avoid are:

  • Vague. Asking vague and useless questions make you seem unskilled and/or unprepared. And why waste the time? They tip off your audience that you have no genuine curiosity about them at all:
  • Judgmental. If you want honest answers, make certain you don’t come across as confrontational or judgmental. Let the other person feel that they’ve been heard.


Struggles - tiger in water

In his 1994 paper, The Psychology of Curiosity, George Loewenstein found that curiosity requires some amount of initial knowledge. His research determined that we are not curious about those things we know absolutely nothing about.

This changes, however, when we start to learn even a little bit about a topic or subject; our curiosity is piqued and we want to learn more.

It turns out that the more we know, the more we want to know.

Tip For You:

Research shows that when you are curious, the limbic reward system of the brain is active. This is why it is important that teachers spark curiosity in the classroom and use curiosity as a teaching method.


As a team leader, you will constantly need to send the message to others that you are leading an organization more interested in asking questions than knowing all the answers. Too often, this becomes flip-flopped and the emphasis is on knowing all the answers—a sure path to stagnation.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 65% of workplace employees surveyed felt unable to ask questions at work. Even more ironic, while 84% indicated that their employers encouraged curiosity, 60% said they also encountered barriers to it at work.

Tip For You:

It’s important to model curious behavior for those around you by showing a willingness to ask questions and admitting you don’t know the answer.

Collect wisdom where you find it. In your circle, have:

  • One person older than you who is where you want to be in the future
  • One peer who possesses strengths and accomplishments that you don’t
  • One person younger than you who is further along than you were at that age

Curiosity is important to every business owner, entrepreneur, and leader. If it wasn’t then new ventures would have no appeal. Asking questions and maintaining a strong sense of curiosity is also necessary to see a company or market trend for what it truly is. Remember, curiosity can wane over time so use the above tips to stay curious and maintain your competitive edge.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 


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7 Responses to “Why Curiosity Makes People More Successful”

  1. I’m like the two-year-old that has never grown up – I get so excited by exploring and being curious. (But I have been very guilting in the past of asking the rapid-fire questions you reference – and not listening closely for the answers. Which defeats the whole point of being curious.)

    Great post LaRae!

  2. Terri Deuel says:

    Great points LaRae.

    As a leader, I have found curiosity redefines relationships. Asking questions moved me away from the hierarchical leadership structure. When I advised, provided the answers or gave direction, I placed myself in a superior position. Alternately, when I inquired, I positioned myself as member of the team. I became a peer working along side them rather than the boss dictating from above. Leading as an equal through curiosity changed individual relations and team dynamics. It deepened connections and generated buy-in.

    Will share.

  3. Alli Polin says:

    When I went through my coach training one of my instructors told me, “Consultants should be smart as a whip and coaches dumb as a rock.” What he was pointing towards was to let curiosity lead the way. Worry less about having answers and more about remaining curious. He also emphasized that what you see as a simple question from where you sit may unleash fascinating and meaningful insights.

    Will share!


    • LaRae Quy says:

      Great piece of advice, Alli…as a coach it is so essential to worry less about having the answers and more about remaining curious. I will use that bit of advice in my own coaching!

  4. Terri Klass says:

    Excellent article, LaRae!

    Curiosity fuels our ability to nourish our minds with new ideas and concepts. I try to keep growing my leadership by constantly reading new books and articles as well as connecting with fascinating people. I think if we keep an open perspective and commit to being a lifelong learner we will keep ourselves vibrant and nimble.

    Definitely will share!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Reading books and articles is something I do as well Terri Klass…it’s a great way to stay invested in cutting edge thinking and also a way to continually keep us challenged!

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