Apollo 13, Splash, 8 Mile, A Beautiful Mind, Friday Night Lights, Arrested Development, 24 were all produced by Brian Grazer. Brian’s new book A Curious Mind (co-written with Charles Fishman) sets out a brilliant case for being curious throughout your life.

Is there any other way to be? If I were to name one characteristic I look for when recruiting talent it’s the curiosity gene. It drives everything.

People are defined by the questions they ask.

Let’s remember the Nixon Vs. Frost interviews. Superb questions by Sir David Frost, probably a man underestimated by President Nixon. This question stands out for me:

Frost: Would you say that there are certain situations – and the Huston Plan was one of them – where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation, and do something illegal?

Richard Nixon: Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.

What I took from the Book

Brian sets out a few key themes that are worth highlighting: What curiosity isn’t, what it is, and the benefits that are bestowed on the practiced inquirer.

What Curiosity Isn’t

It’s very easy to hear a discussion about curiosity and say; sure, I’m a curious person. I’m always asking questions! But there lies the problem. Are you always asking and not listening?

“There are two key elements to a questioning culture. The first is the atmosphere around the question. You can’t ask a question in a tone of voice or with a facial expression that indicates you already know the answer. You can’t ask a question with that impatience that indicates you can’t wait to ask the next question,” states Brian.

What Curiosity Is

He uses great examples to explain what curiosity is throughout the book but here is one we are all familiar with – the public speech.

Curiosity tackles this potentially nerve-racking event by asking questions (from the book):

  • What’s the talk supposed to be about?
  • What’s the best possible version of the talk?
  • What do the people coming to this event expect to hear?
  • What do they want to hear, in general?
  • What do they want to hear from me specifically?
  • And who is the audience?

I would add a couple of killer questions for business presentations that I’ve found make a big difference:

  1. What’s my first 60 seconds going to sound like?
  2. What’s my last 60 seconds going to sound like?
  3. What do I want the audience to feel when they leave?
  4. What questions are in the heads of my audience that I must answer?

The Benefits

The right question produces clarification. In my experience in the world of business it’s use is ubiquitous – negotiation of contracts, sales engagements, motivation of staff, launch of new products, recruitment, strategy. When does the right question NOT help you? And as Brian points out in the book:

  • As a tool for discovery
  • As a spark for creativity and inspiration
  • As a way of motivating yourself
  • As a tool for independence and self-confidence
  • As the key to storytelling
  • As a form of courageand in Brian’s view the most important use, the human connection that is created by curiosity.

Sidebar thoughts for Sales Professionals

Today in the world of selling, life has changed in this respect. The buyer of services or products knows more about you and your competitors than ever before. At least through web discovery they think they know about your products.

To engage with prospects, all sales professionals need to develop world-class diagnostic skills. That takes years of practice. It takes years to be a good listener never mind a great interviewer.

Brian Grazer built into his life over 40 years ago a space in his week for “curiosity conversations”. It was tough at first getting in front of people but as he enjoyed more success he gained access to more and more interesting people. Science, sport, politics, writers, world leaders and many many more categories of interesting people have sat down with Brian to have a curiosity conversation.

I highly recommend you dive into this book. I don’t know Brian but I’d love to have a conversation with him!