Bringing Success Using Culture, Innovation And Curiosity With Michael Hvisdos

What are the things you need to build a successful organization? You need culture, innovation and curiosity, and you need these in spades. In this episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton discusses these three values with the CEO of Inquizo, Michael Hvisdos. Michael discusses how these values affect organizations and how to drive these values for success. Tune in and learn more in this thought-provoking conversation.

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And Curiosity


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Michael Hvisdos here. He’s the Partner and CEO at Inquizo and the work he does is in curiosity and so much more in terms of motivation and things that make companies successful. I’m so excited to talk to him.

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Bringing Success Using Culture, Innovation And Curiosity With Michael Hvisdos

I am here with Michael Hvisdos. He’s a Partner and CEO at Inquizo and he has several years of global experience in sales, business development, marketing, you name it. I’m so excited to have you here, Michael. Welcome.

Thanks, Diane. It’s great to be here with you.

I was looking forward to this. You’ve got an interesting background. You’ve done a lot of things. I don’t want to botch it by me delivering it. Why don’t you tell me how you reached this level of success?

[bctt tweet=”You can’t innovate if you’re not creative and it’s impossible to be creative if you’re not curious.” via=”no”]

I’ve spent the majority of my career leading the growth side of organizations and from roles from direct seller all the way through chief revenue officer, chief growth officer or whatever title you want to give to it. I’ve been working with businesses as a consultant in training organizations around curiosity and things like that but I worked for organizations like GE and helped them grow businesses that were acquired into a big business, like $4.5 billion. Some ton of startups, including a cool startup. It was a renewable energy company. We took waste products, primarily waste food products and dairy manure and turned it into natural gas and electricity. That was a fun job. Most of my time is spent around helping organizations grow better and helping people become more successful in what they do.

That’s a background and that’s a big job but I love the tie-in to curiosity. On your site you have a bunch of articles about curiosity and it’s tied to performance. What I find hard when I studied curiosity was to find out a lot of great data on showing the financial outcomes. If you improve curiosity, your will improve engagement, which will save you X, Y, Z dollars until I worked with Novartis. They did a pretty interesting in-house study on engagement, where they were able to move the needle from their normal engagement to quite a bit higher after doing curiosity training and that type of thing. What kind of data are you seeing? What are you writing about in your articles and how are you tying it into performance?

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And Curiosity
Culture, Innovation And Curiosity: It’s innovating with companies that creates a lot more value and a lot more loyalty today.


We saw something similar when we first started getting into this and what drew us into curiosity was we were doing a lot of work around transformation and change with our organizations and we saw some people progressing faster than others. We started to ask a lot of questions around, like, “What makes them different or how do organizations adapt differently?” We started to find this common thread around the curiosity of the organization and it led us into a lot of the same stuff that you were looking at too. Back then, a lot of the research was around health and wellbeing versus business. That’s the first thing we saw. Merck, Novartis and a couple of others dug into it on the business side and what they saw was pretty eyeopening, in our opinion.

One of the things that they saw in the studies that they did is I think it was like 22% of people were thought they were allowed to be curious at work, meaning the majority weren’t allowed to be curious at work. It started to be like, “What’s going on? Why did they feel this way?” When we started to get into it, we started to see a lot of things in business and in companies that were limiting people’s ability to be curious. That to us said, “We got to change that.” We got to change it in a hurry. Otherwise, things like engagement, those things are going to suffer in these organizations. That’s what started us down the path.

Francesca Gino was on the show and she shared her data from that Harvard Business Review research, which was great because leaders think they’re encouraging curiosity, and yet, when you ask their followers, it’s a way different number of who believes it and that they are. That was my interest to find out if you were saying things that are limiting curiosity.

That’s what I was trying to figure out when I wrote my book but then I realized I had to create the assessment to figure out what was stopping it because it wasn’t out there. I was so stunned it wasn’t out there because all the assessments told you is if you had high or low levels and then if you had a low level then what? I think it’s important to look at the things that inhibit curiosity and what I found was it was fear, assumptions, which the voice in your head over and underutilization of technology and environment. FATE was the acronym that I came up with. Did those align with what you find is inhibited curiosity?

[bctt tweet=”Can you change culture? You can, but it takes a lot of time and effort and it’s slow to get there.” via=”no”]

They definitely do in a lot of our research pointed more towards that environment piece. I think when you look at the environment, in particular, it encourages or discourages. Those are the things you just mentioned especially like fear. How we engage people either walk them into the conversation or shuts them down. I think that’s the big thing that we see in business. I don’t think people overtly want to shut down the people, but when we’re pressured for the time we don’t allow people to engage and ask those questions and exercise that curiosity. When we put too much rigor and process especially in a highly dynamic environment like sales and those things, it squashes that curiosity. All of those things that are environmental when we’re more hierarchal versus supportive and organizations, it’s squashes curiosity. All of those things tie back for us in our opinion towards the environment more than anything.

It was fun to do the research because a lot of it did overlap in a way. You had a boss who told you, “Don’t tell me any problems unless you have solutions.” They only recognize the problems. They didn’t have the skills to give them the solution. They shut up and then that led to their fear that they were stupid. That then led to the voice in their head saying, “Don’t say anything because last time, that’s what you got.” You don’t know if the last job is where the environment was the problem and it lingered over into this. Maybe they don’t ask questions the last time they had a boss who would go, “That’s a good idea here. You’re running that and you get no money to do it.” You don’t know. There’s a curiosity crisis in business. I’d like to know what are you doing to let it grow or nurture it.

That’s probably the ultimate question there. A lot of it has to do with how do you help organizations change the way they engage each other and the environment they create for it to go? We actually come in and we measure organizations. We do it through natural language. It’s pretty fascinating because people can’t game it. It’s like we have the vocabulary and there are certain ways we can measure those words in that vocabulary. Measuring it as one thing and then that often takes us down to a path where companies want to know, “How do I benchmark?” While we see what the best companies do, we don’t encourage people to focus on how they measure up but what we have to focus with them on is differences.

Even in an organization, you’re going to see better, more curious people in teams. The question in our mind becomes, “What are they doing that’s different than the less curious teams?” If we can capture what they’re doing and have more people do those as best practices and curiosity goes up at the same time, we can obviously bring in what other organizations are doing too. A lot of it has to do with the environment they’re creating and how they engage people and how they pull them into conversations. When you look at how fast business is changing around us because of technology and all those things and obviously the pandemic, we can go on and on there but you have to stay at the forefront of thinking about how this is impacting everybody’s ability to buy things. Do things, get things done or innovate even. Curiosity becomes so critical in business because of its speed and complexity.

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And Curiosity
Culture, Innovation And Curiosity: It’s less about being curious about what you sell or the products that you make today, but more about how companies use those to achieve the goals that are most important to them in a rapidly changing business environment.


It made me think of how many times I teach many entrepreneurship courses and different things. A lot of the time we talk about you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel. You need mentors and different things to help you but how do you not reinvent the wheel to get what works and yet not end up as another me-too product?

I think it’s for, ties into that innovation thing. The speed of business moves at a pace nowadays where I think it’s easy to get commoditized but I think how we show up as organizations also make it easy to get classified as a me-too. I think that ties back to the curiosity piece. It’s less about being curious about what you sell or the products that you make but more about how can companies use those to achieve the goals that are most important to them in a rapidly changing business environment? That’s the link to that and that ties to innovation. Everybody wants to put innovation in the product bucket but it’s innovating with companies that create a lot more value in a lot more loyalty too.

A lot of these words like innovation come up a lot on this show and it was interesting whether they’re an innovation, engagement or motivation expert it doesn’t matter what they talked about whenever I asked them what people first between curiosity, motivation, curiosity, innovation. Everybody says curiosity comes first and I look at it as the sparks of our show. You may disagree. I look at it as the spark that sends it down.

I sometimes talk about it as baking a cake. Everybody wants to be productive and have all this money at the end. That’s their cake. If you’re baking a cake, you’re putting ingredients together. You’re putting flour and eggs and whatever and you’re mixing it in a bowl and you’re putting in the oven and you want cake. If you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get cake. You get goo. It’s the same thing if your end-product is the cake and productivity money at the end. They know all these other things, this motivation, engagement and innovation. All these things are mixing together but nobody’s turned on the oven. The oven is curiosity. That’s how I look at it. What do you think comes first? Do you agree with that? I’d love to hear differing opinions. I’m open to anything.

[bctt tweet=”Curiosity is a critical and direct link to improving motivation and communication-based issues.” via=”no”]

We back into it and innovation is the thing here but like you mentioned in the stats there but probably the most recent, it’s probably in the mid to high 80%. Even CEOs of companies saying, “We must innovate or we die. We’ve got to stay ahead of the competition.” I would agree with that but I don’t think they pay attention to what it takes to get them there. As you back away from innovation, you can’t innovate if you’re not creative. It’s impossible to be creative if you’re not curious.

I would agree with you that curiosity is the precursor to all of it but even that simple equation of curiosity plus creativity equals innovation. I think people either don’t understand it or they under-appreciate it. It all starts with curiosity. If you can’t create that environment and get your people more curious, you’re never going to get the performance that you need out of the organization or you’re not going to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

It’s so fun to teach these curiosity courses when I do it because people have taken their assessments. They look at the results and they see the things that are holding them back. I think to move forward, you have to know where you are and why you’re there. A lot of it seems intuitive but then you go, “Now that I know this, I can create these smart goals and get to the next level.” Before we were talking, you were saying there are two scary parts. It is an innovate or die thing. Did we touch on what you meant by that? I want to make sure we cover that.

Where we are individually is critical. I can control myself to develop a different level of curiosity. We believe very strongly that curiosity is a learned muscle and that there are two types of curiosity. One is diversive curiosity and I like to see that’s the Google effect. There’s a lot of folks especially the younger generation, that when they don’t know the answer, they jump on Google. They get the quick one and they move on. That doesn’t create a different level of thinking or different muscle memory. Epistemic curiosity requires effort and I take that behind the scenes and say, “Why is that answer, that answer? What caused it to be there?”

When I start to nurture that hunger, if you will, for knowledge and curiosity, that becomes the way I start to think and approach things. Now I’ve created a different level of curiosity, if you will. I think part of it is knowing where we are and what we need to do to get there but even when we do the best we can individually when organizations create environments that are counter-intuitive or productive to that, they still don’t allow it to open itself up. That there is the scary part because there’s a very low level or low percentage of people that believe they’re allowed to practice curiosity or be curious at work.

It’s like any cultural issue. It starts at the top and if the top doesn’t emulate what they want. Sometimes the answer is if you work for somebody who doesn’t get it, sometimes it’s time to look for another place. What I’d like to do is get the eyes open at the top because once they get it, it’s such a huge thing. I had Keith Krach, the former CEO and Chairman of DocuSign, write the foreword of my book on curiosity and he got it. He surrounded himself with people who knew a lot of things. He didn’t pretend like, “I’m the only one who knows it all.” He asks questions and he got other people more curious. I think it’s hard and I was looking at how you had raised over $100 million in private equity bonds to finance new business ventures and some of them that you helped with. Do you look for the culture at the beginning? Where does culture play into your full way of doing business?

Culture is an interesting thing because if you look at a lot of the research around culture, it’ll tell you that culture is established over a long period of time. It ties to the top leaders of the organization and how they create engagement and/or direction for the organization. All of those things I think are true. Can you change culture? You can but it takes a lot of time and effort and it’s slow to get there. What we have looked at are the teams, even in organizations that struggle culturally.

What you’ll find is there are teams that still are high-performing despite the change or the difficulty that an organization is growing through. The question then becomes, what are they doing differently? When you start to study them, what you see is they’re creating a different environment or climate or you can even call that micro-climate, inside of that organization that is still allowing the people of their team to perform a different way.

We do a lot of work with our leaders of those teams especially front and second-line leaders, to create those climates that will nurture curiosity. Even if the organization is in turmoil or they’re extremely hierarchal versus supportive of those things, where it limits the ability to nurture curiosity, they can still have a positive impact on their teams. If we get enough teams doing that, it starts to reshape the organization in total. Climate is very different than culture and I think a lot of leaders need to look at what can I do personally with my team to create a better environment for that.

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And Curiosity
Culture, Innovation And Curiosity: If you can’t create that environment and get your people more curious, you’re never going to get the performance that you need out of the organization.


It was what Dr. Maja Zelihic and I were looking at when we wrote our book on perception because we looked at it beyond curiosity. We looked at perception as the combination of IQ, EQ, Emotional Quotient, CQ for Curiosity Question, and CQ for Cultural Quotient. We combined some of these things to look at what if you’re doing business with different countries, global business, different things. You’re dealing with so many different cultures and genders and things that have impacted our vantage point. To me, it’s because I wrote my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence, I’m fascinated with empathy and how we can put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes.

What we saw with perception, it was an epic process. You evaluate, predict, interpret and correlate to come up with your conclusions but all of those were factors included all these things that we’re talking about gender and culture, upbringing and all of that. What part do you see perception plays in the work that you’re doing and how do you help people recognize and get empathetic to somebody’s unique vantage point?

When you look at a lot of these leaders, even with larger or smaller teams, we are still indirect control of the processes and procedures we asked these people to work within, the signals we’re conveying to them or even the permissions that we grant to them to do their job. If we can create a different way for people to navigate themselves in those environments, it becomes critical. I think that ties back to what you’re just talking about here. It’s not about letting people just go out and do whatever they want but it’s more providing the guard rails for them to operate in and then being extremely supportive in how we engage in work with them to enable them to think and perform on their own and those kinds of things too. That naturally boosts their curiosity level but we agree with you.

There are three factors to high-performers and that’s IQ, EQ and CQ. Even when business leaders come to me and say, “I’ve got a couple of great candidates. Who should I hire,” and they’re testing out well in IQ and EQ, then the first question I always ask them is, “How are they engaging you?” What I’m getting to is like, “What is their CQ level?” What we have found is that if you choose the one that is demonstrating a lot more curiosity whether you measure that or you don’t but if they’re demonstrating it and they’re digging into that business a different way than everybody else, that’s the one that’s always going to outperform everybody.

I agree that this way of looking at it is so complex and I think that I’m always wanting to do more research to get more data because when I talked to them, they just want that. They want to see, “I’m saving XYZ dollars by doing this or that training.” Sometimes you can see productivity improvements but how do you tie it back exactly to the one thing that you’ve changed? Sometimes it’s tough for them. I think it’s very intuitive that we work on the EQs, the CQs and all the Qs that we’re talking about.

We know Gallup’s numbers are horrific for our engagement and everything else like that $50 billion that US companies are losing from engagement, not to mention the money that’s being lost from communication and emotional intelligence, those types of issues. It’s very intuitive to me that you would work on these things if you know that this was the spark, this curiosity to everything else. I love that you focus so much on curiosity. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think is important to our conversation?

Let’s go to the dollar thing and how you measure it. When we found the ability to measure it through natural language, that was interesting to us but we said, “How does that impact an organization?” The next thing we took a look at was performance and we took performance on the sales side mostly to start with because it’s easier to measure there. We have dollars, cents and rankings of people. We also extrapolate that to even rankings of individuals, ABC in an organization or whatever method an organization uses.

We then started to compare curiosity level to performance in the organization and what we found is that there is a direct tie between the two. What do I mean there? If I bumped the curiosity up of an individual, the performance always follows it. It doesn’t matter how you measure it and whether it’s a salesperson and meeting quota, how they rank or whatever it is. They go hand in hand with each other.

If I want better sales outcomes or better revenue outcomes for a company, it ties back to the curiosity level and curiosity is something you can start to impact immediately. The great news is performance will always follow it. What is the payback? That is the big payback that’s there. The other interesting thing we found is it doesn’t have to do with age in an organization. You know this from running research projects and we see this all the time. We always age bracket people and we do that to look at variability and constants and things like that. The good news is this. We’ve run enough people or we’ve measured enough people to be able to actually take that age equation out. Age bracket or what range do you fall into, people always get scared.

We don’t need that anymore. What we found is the impact of curiosity has more to do with tenure and position. It ties back to Liz Wiseman’s book on Rookie Smarts. The more tenured we are in position, the more likely we are to depend on what got us to where we are versus staying up on the learning curve. The more we can even take our tenured people and keep them up on a learning curve and nurture that curiosity, the more likely they are to keep their performance at a high level, too.

[bctt tweet=”You can’t live without some kind of bias to give you some decision-making ability, but we have to pay attention to unconscious bias.” via=”no”]

Liz talked about it when she and I were on a panel. We were on a couple of boards together and her work is impressive. Do you have any of the research that you talked about in terms of productivity that you post that at all on your website? I’m curious where your numbers go with the research you get?

We definitely do post it in our articles and it’s out there for people to take a look at. Interestingly enough, you talked about early on the curiosity article but with Harvard. We submitted everything to Harvard about several months before that article. They came back to us and said, “Love what you’re doing but we’re going to have to pass on you.” They came out with their own and a lot of people came back to say like, “What do you think about the Harvard thing? Are you disappointed that you didn’t get published?” We’re like, “Absolutely not.” The more people that are talking about this, the more we start to open companies’ eyes to it. We were actually excited about even Harvard’s research because it said the same things that we were talking about and the more awareness we can create with businesses, the better off we are.

I may need you to send me some of your research. I’m always looking for more. It was great having Francesca on the show talking about her Harvard research and she’s in Thinkers50, which is a group. I’m part of their Thinkers50 radar. In that whole group, they’re super curious and I love that it’s out there and I hopefully get to see more of your research as well. I think a lot of people will want to know how they can find you and learn more about what you’re working on.

The easiest way is to jump on our website, and then you can certainly reach out to me or my business partner, Janet Gerhard. We can talk with you more specifically about it. We put all of our articles and publications out there for people and there are some video snippets out there too if people just want to hear us talk about curiosity and share some of our points of view. They’re out there. One of the most things that we did was a series of articles on how do you get people to pay attention in this COVID world that we’re in when access to people is more difficult? Specifically, in email and those things, like how do you capture someone’s attention and create that curiosity with them, so they actually engage you? That’s even out there.

I’m curious. I want to read that one. This was such a great conversation and it’s wonderful to hear that you’ve got so much data to back up what I think is such a huge topic. I’m glad more people are getting interested in it. I love what you’re doing and it was so wonderful having you on the show, Michael.

Thank you very much. I’d like to say the same back. It’s been wonderful to read your book and to follow the research that you’re doing around curiosity too. The more of us that start to pay attention to this, the more impact we’re going to have on not only companies but people too. That’s why we do what we do.

I get so many great guests on the show. Sometimes I want to take a little bit of time to talk about some of the research I do. I’m going to talk to you about perception. Some of the work I did with Dr. Maja Zelihic, who is also one of the people I’ve worked with at the Forbes School of Business and she’s been great in this process of researching how perceptions process in our mind, our opinions and our version of the truth in our biases and how we live. What’s in arose, would it smell as sweet by any other name and all that that we read about? We looked at what can we do with the perception in the workplace to discuss it? We looked at it as a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ for cultural quotient, CQ for curiosity quotient and we thought, “I think that this is something that they’re not talking about enough in the workplace.” We talk about perception reality and to what extent are our perceptions true? They’re just our perceptions. What is reality to us may not be reality to them.

There is a truth to some extent but what’s real and all that, we started to get into this analysis paralysis thinking about it. We thought, “If we’re thinking like this, we need to showcase what have done to try and look at this.” The world’s changing. We’ve seen The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. It’s a great book. We know that what we used to think is the reality of everything that we thought we could do now is different. We’re becoming more connected and we know that there are a lot more issues with the recent global tragedies. As companies are trying to do work in a global dot-com industry, it’s just a lot different of how we look at things than when I originally got into the workplace or I wouldn’t have got into it.

We’re looking at some of our belief systems of what shape us both consciously and unconsciously because if we know that, we can be more responsive and respond to this multicultural, multi-language world in which we’re living. We can monitor our perceptions and guide them towards what we want to go or where we don’t want to go and understand what other people believe and maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in. We can understand that and see where they’re coming from. That way we manage our perceptions and we’re able to build empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence. Maybe you can’t walk a mile in my shoes but we can have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that.

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And Curiosity
Culture, Innovation And Curiosity: The more we can take our tenured people and keep them on a learning curve and nurture that curiosity, the more likely they are to keep their performance at a really high level, too.


We looked at what was available in terms of assessments out there of how we can test and validate and do all these things with that. We came up with a Perception Power Index, which goes along with the book, The Power of Perception. Those are the things that we’re going to talk about. I think we come into this world with this predisposition of how we view and interpret things. Imagine if you’re born where you are now compared to if you were born somewhere else. We know that twins, they’re different if they were separated at birth. There’s just a different upbringing. We have this cultural impact on how our behaviors, our beliefs and everything that we relate to are impacted by our social, ethnic, age group and everything. We’re seeing that there’s a lot more conflict nowadays in the world. I think a lot of it is because we don’t understand each other that well.

Something that we don’t even think about is acceptable or not questionable here in the United States might be something very questionable in another culture. If you’re wearing a miniskirt in Brazil, it’s a lot different than if you’re wearing that in Saudi Arabia, for example. We have to appreciate where other people are coming from and see maybe we’re allowing our culture, our society to dictate what we’re thinking and what we’re perceiving.

I’ve had Joe Lurie on the show. He’s got a great book, A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures, where he writes about a lot of this. All the different perceptions of things that he’s found in different cultures and maybe like eye contact in Western cultures is maybe candor and confidence, but you go to Africa, they don’t want to do that. If you eye contact with a person of authority, you got to worry about respect and there’s a lot of different issues. When you’re talking about Western culture versus other cultures and in Asian cultures, they might use a calculator to negotiate the price of things but you might not want to do that in some other areas because it may seem disrespectful. Looking at different areas is fascinating, even how certain hand gestures mean one thing. An OK in one language may be be insulting in another culture.

A lot of studies look at Western culture versus other cultures and I think that is worth reviewing but now we know that there’s a lot of stereotyping going on. We’re trying to get away from that. We’re trying to get away from biases. We have biases. Beau Lotto talked about that on my show. I hope you listened to that episode about how you need it. You can’t live without some bias to give you some decision-making ability but we have to pay attention to unconscious bias. We got to be careful that we don’t come across as arrogant or condescending and saying something, keep it simple stupid might mean one thing in one language. We have that as a saying and it’s not meant to be insulting but if you tell it to somebody else, it could be very insulting.

I think these are the things that we were looking at when we decided we needed to look at cultural quotients and IQ and CQ and our drive, motivation, knowledge, cognition or metacognition and all those things to look at how we come up with these actions or behaviors. Do we have to adapt to customs or should they adapt to ours? Should we be more tolerant of differences? I think change is a big thing that we teach in business classes and being proactive to it is also important. We know that we have these teams where there’s in groupers or out groupers and we want to try and get people to get along well. I know I’ve had Amy Edmondson talking about teams and teaming and how people get along. A lot of it collaboration is about having a curiosity to ask questions and learn from each other. We want to look at the path that we’re on that’s similar but also understand the path that we’re on that’s not so similar.

Some of the things that impact that sometimes are things like spirituality whether you’re religious or not, it can be different for some people. Have this impact of how important their spirituality or their religion is to them where other people might be agnostic or atheist and that could completely shape your whole perception of the situation at hand. You might accidentally insult someone without even realizing how important something is to them. I don’t think a lot of people give a lot of thought to the differences of how so much strength that can have in their ideas and their things that they question or don’t question. It can have a big impact because we inherited a lot of beliefs from our family. We personalize our beliefs. We take things that work for us, maybe don’t work for us and we make something around what works in our situation.

That can make us think we’re right and they’re wrong vice versa. That is a problem in the business world if we don’t examine what you know is shaping what these people are coming up with or not coming up with. Having personalized beliefs are fine but we have to recognize that even though Stephen Covey says, “Spiritual renewal is one of the habits that are central to effective leadership.” We have to look at, what’s your greater purpose? What do they think is their greater purpose? What are our values, ethical principles and what are theirs? What will our legacy be and what is theirs? Those are the things that we researched in terms of how people use their religion or spirituality in that. It was also fun to look at gender, to see the differences of how people look at paintings.

[bctt tweet=”Change is a big thing that we teach in business classes and being proactive to it is also important.” via=”no”]

There was a comment we put in the book. Two strangers, a man and woman, were visiting an art gallery. They found themselves standing next to one another staring at a painting of an old country estate, replete with an elderly man sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch of a mansion with various barns and outbuildings and serving it as background. The woman, without prompting, commented, “What a beautiful painting so serene and peaceful. A beautiful blend of man and nature.” The man commented in response, “That barn looks like it’s in dire need of a paint job.” We both look at the same thing but we see different aspects. There’s not that one’s right, one’s wrong. It could be the opposite way round. It could be the man seeing the great thing, the woman saying the opposite.

We don’t want to stereotype necessarily but it’s interesting to see that when men and women do see things a little bit differently, there are psychological differences. These have been documented, including differences in their brains. We hear gender bias and we know studies show women are viewed differently, treated differently, paid differently and we know there’s a predominance in the number of men compared to women in executive positions. Those were the things that are important to leaders to recognize that we’re talking about. We have to know the origins of all this and why we see things through these different lenses. We know that men’s brain is structurally different than the female brain. I think that’s a fascinating thing to look at in itself. We’re not going to exactly see things in the same way.

There’s a book, a New York Times bestseller called The Female Brain, it’s Dr. Louann Brizendine and she’s a neuro-psychiatrist, I believe. She also later wrote The Male Brain. She guides you through how the brains of each gender differ and how they shape our behaviors from the time we’re infants all the way into adulthood. The women’s perceptions of behaviors are different from men’s mostly, she says, due to hormones, which we do have different hormones. We know the women have more estrogen-progesterone even though we have testosterone but not as much as the men. It goes all the way back to some of these hormones from how we are influenced by them.

I talked to Tom Peters on the show. That’s a great show if you get a chance to look at it. He talked about the female brain and he recalled an article from Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. It was the Sunday Times magazine section and he described how that coach, often referred to as Coach K, would bring his wife to all the team meetings that he said the reason was that she would see what was going on in the player’s lives that she just didn’t notice. She would notice a smell of a problem of a girlfriend 100 miles away or some distraction. He didn’t think men psychologically saw those things. He found it fascinating as an observation.

I think there are differences and if we pretend like we’re not different, that doesn’t work. We get uncomfortable. If we look at that as one thing being better than another, that’s also uncomfortable. It’s important to just recognize that these things are part of us that was intended to be different. We’re not intended to be exactly the same and life will be super boring if it was that way. Just thought that that would be something that you talk about in the workplace of what we can get. We know that the percentage of women in the workplace is increasing. We know that the rate of women occupying key roles in the workplace is on the rise. We know that women were being hired into leadership roles more often than they were a CEO’s, at an increasing rate we’d like to see it higher.

We know that women are bringing in different perceptions into the workplace and then those are different aspirations. It is an interesting thing to look at that how genetically wired differently right from birth. These differences are spawning this ground for this history of beliefs and stereotypes of how we’re taught to view each other and we’re carving a different road for ourselves, the women versus the men. I think that’s important to know that we’re evolving. When we’re doing that we’re impacted by our intelligence in this process and if we look at intelligence, we talk about IQ and EQ. If we’re thinking of intelligence as what we know and how we apply what we know, we know that we need to be able to use our intelligence to understand how to relate with one another. We know that our intelligence evolves in different ways and our perceptions evolve in different ways.

There’s this perceptual intelligence of fluid versus crystallized intelligence that comes about. I think that there’s some great work by Raymond Cattell who talked about that if you ever get a chance to read some of his work, I think that there are all these different types of what we learn and how it changes over time is a very important thing to look at. Also, Howard Gardner is very heavily cited in the area of types of intelligence and used to be, we just thought we had one kind but he studied all these different types of abilities that we have. You could have naturalistic intelligence, music intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, existential intelligence, body kinesthetic, verbal-linguistic, interpersonal visual, spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence. The list goes on and on.

To say somebody smart is a hard thing to do because there are these different types of ways of being smart and then how do you value that intelligence? What’s important in your culture for that type of intelligence? That was interesting to us as we went through all the different ways that we grow and learn and apply what we know. We also looked at emotions as in emotional intelligence and that aspect as well because I had written my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence and that’s such a huge area. It was so great to have Daniel Goleman on the show to talk about emotional intelligence. If you haven’t read that episode, I highly recommend it. Emotions play a big part in how we make decisions.

If you want to talk about empathy, it’s a big part of emotional intelligence. If we have empathy, sometimes that ties into the curiosity that we’re questions to learn more about each other and our emotions can be different across cultures. You have different studies between Japanese and American subjects, they found facial expressions and non-verbal behaviors vary significantly between them. I had Paul Ekman on the show. The TV show Lie To Me was based on his work. There are certain expressions that we all make that are the same whether you’re blind or not and I thought that was fascinating. My father was born blind. I think it’s interesting what things we have similar and then other things that are completely different.

It’s conceptually different based on the way you grow up and the influences around you of how you respond to your emotions. Your emotions can make you perceive failure differently. Some of us have the fight or flight response. Some of us will run from it, some of us we’ll run to it but most of us have that sense that failure is not your favorite thing. Our perception of failure can influence how much we explore things and ask questions. It gets back into curiosity again. I tell a story in my talks and I write one in the book about different experiences. Sometimes you’re in a sales presentation where you get your rear end handed to you. You might be on a call with your partner and your partner thinks it’s the worst thing in the world, where you might think it’s the best thing because you’ve learned everything you need to know now to fix your next presentation.

If you don’t learn these things, sometimes your perception will get you down and you’ll quit. You have to learn from failure, I think. If you don’t, you’re going to end up being the glass half empty person and you won’t move forward. You’ll just stay where you are and move backward. That’s what we’re trying to avoid by understanding perception.

The other things that we looked at when we were looking at perception were whether if it’s your reality or not and I think that looking at some of the perception experts especially Beau Lotto, I love his TED Talks. I know he was on the show and he talked about a lot of great things on the show but if you’re wanting to know perception versus reality, I would look at some of that because it’s fascinating.

I think talking about perception got you to need to talk about collaboration because collaboration is a required skillset nowadays in the workplace and if you’re being hindered by your perceptions, there are so many variables. Think of the questions we ask ourselves, “Does this project intrigue us? Does it motivate us? Do we like our teammates? Do we like our leader? Do we like the role that we’ve been given?” You look at all this and if you’re getting mixed reasons for why you like something or don’t like something, a lot of it could be your perception of it.

When we talk about collaboration, I always think about Amy Edmondson’s TED Talk because that ties into how they got the Chilean miners out in that disaster. These people were able to work together and collaborate because they maybe had different perceptions but they knew that it was like life or death, literally in this case, to help people get out from under that rock.

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And Curiosity
Culture, Innovation And Curiosity: We have to appreciate where other people are coming from and see where we’re allowing our culture, our society to dictate what we’re thinking and what we’re perceiving.


I think understanding that perception is critical to collaboration and to getting people to work together and being innovative and creative is interesting because we’re talking about how much we have problems. Gallup says we’re losing $500 billion a year on engagement. We know that people want to be collaborative. If we don’t have this ability to get along, that’s going to be huge. We want people to be creative and see things differently. In the Dead Poet’s Society movie, Robin Williams had the students get on top of their desks to look at life in a different way and he said, “To make life extraordinary, you have to make a difference. You must see things differently.”

I think that that’s a key point that a lot of people always are looking at things from their vantage point. They don’t get on top of their desk. They don’t look at things from another way. I know I’ve done a lot of training classes where we’ve given Legos and we’ve had people build things in teams and in collaborative ways. It’s just fun to see them get ideas from each other and go, “I would have never looked at it that way.” If you maybe aren’t a big fan of teams, sometimes it’s helpful to get on a team with people who are completely different than you are because if everybody thinks the same way, life’s boring.

It helps to look at things from a critical thinking standpoint and to do research. How did these people do this? How have they made it successful? What facts support their argument? What’s the source of their information and how did they come to that conclusion? We’re back to curiosity again. I think that those are the questions we need to ask ourselves and I don’t think we get enough of that. There’s a lot of people who just want to take things at face value based on what they’ve always known and what supports the values that they’ve always had. That’s common for people. You watch either CNN or Fox or whatever that supports your values because it makes you comfortable.

It is important to get curious and get outside. Our perception suggests we know something but our curiosity proves that we don’t. We need to know what we don’t know and a lot of people aren’t asking enough questions. That’s the thing that in the book Cracking The Curiosity Code is a huge part of changing the culture in organizations. I often talk a lot about that two groups because if we can ask more questions, we can get better at decision-making. Decision-making can be challenging.

I love a quote by Deepak Chopra where he says, “If you obsess over whether you’re making the right decision, you’re basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.” If you think about that, you always think you have the right or the wrong thing. It’s not necessarily the case. There are shades of gray. Not everything is black and white.

That’s what I find particularly fascinating in the research that we did. For trying to fix all the things in work, we’re trying to fix engagement. You’re losing $500 billion a year according to Gallup that when people are financially invested, they want to return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute. That’s what we need to do is get people emotionally invested at work and contributing and part of that is to ask questions and to understand each other better. If you’re asking questions, we’re back to empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence and then we’re getting that perception of the other person’s ideas. We’re seeing it not just from our own standpoint but from theirs.

Some of the questions that we need to ask to improve engagement are like, “Do my employees filter growing in their work? Are they being recognized for their work? Do they trust the company’s on the right track?” Those are some of the things that lead to great communication. I had Kevin Kruse on the show and he has a great book and information about engagement. I think that that’s helpful. All this is that we can be better leaders and better employees. I think that we have to sometimes suspend our beliefs and be agile. Look in some of the words that we hear a lot about vulnerability. Brené Brown has made a lifelong career out of that. I think that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that. That’s what led to our interest in maybe looking at what the perception process is and how can we manage our perceptions.

Creating an assessment would be important, an EPIC decision of how can we help people understand what they go through. What is the process look like? We found it’s about evaluating, predicting, interpreting, reshaping or correlating one’s perceptions. The EPIC acronym we came up with is Evaluation, Prediction, Interpretation and Correlation.

Those are the things that if you take the Perception Power Index that you will find out. How are you doing in those areas? What could you do to improve your EPIC process? I think it’s very similar if you’ve taken the Curiosity Code Index. It’s very simple. You get your results right away and you can find out a lot more about how well you go through this process and what things are helping or holding you back.

If you get a baseline of, “This is how I am at this,” then you know how to move forward. Let’s look at some of these. In evaluation, you’re going to examine, assess and do a lot of these different things that you can recognize if you’re open to thoughts or ideas that you look at it from your own perspective of your self-awareness. I think this one as more of that in that respect. If you applied this element of emotional intelligence, this self-awareness then you’re going to get along better and you’re going to be able to be more aware of how you come across to other people because that’s a lot of problems. I see a lot of people don’t recognize body language, issues, tone, if they’re typing in all caps, there’s all these different things they can do and how they come across and they don’t realize it.

They could predict how the other person’s going to ask and act and then a way that’s another part of emotional intelligence. Is there interpersonal awareness of they are able to understand the other person? Where are they coming from? What their perception is, their capabilities, their abilities and how do they make decisions? That is very challenging to predict what other people are going to do if you don’t look into what they’re doing, have empathy, ask questions and have that sense of emotional intelligence. It’s only then that you can make your interpretation. You have to consider how all of this impacts their decision of how the curiosity comes into this. You’re making assumptions and you’re looking at how their fear is impacting them.

I think a lot of this ties back into their culture of how they were raised. We know that behavior and different things are rewarded or not rewarded in certain systems. We need to look at that and how did their culture shape them? How did the company culture shape them? I think it’s about assessing and understanding your own emotions for the EPIC part. The I part is more about putting it collectively together and interpreting what you know and then you end with your conclusions. Your Correlation is your final C of the EPIC process.

[bctt tweet=”To make life extraordinary, you have to make a difference. You must see things differently.” via=”no”]

Now that you have all this, you can come up with your solutions, your conclusions after researching your facts. This is the critical thinking aspect of it all. We know that that there are many great ideas that come out but if you don’t go to the part where you end it with coming up with the idea with taking what you’ve learned in this group setting and changing a little bit of your behavior so you can have a win-win situation. You haven’t come to any conclusion that’s going to be good for everybody.

I think that those are some of the main points that we make in what we’re talking about in this EPIC process, in this Power of Perception. I thought that this would be something critical to share. You can take the Perception Power Index at and all of the assessments are there. You can take the Curiosity Code Index, take the Perception Power Index. You can even take DISC and emotional intelligence tests. A lot of that is all there.

If you don’t see it in the drop-down menus at the top, there are more menus at the bottom. I hope you contact me if you have any questions and I hope that this helps you understand perception a little better. I’d like to thank Michael for being my guest. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to You can find everything there. I hope you enjoyed the episode and I hope you join us for the next episode.

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About Michael Hvisdos

TTL 876 | Culture, Innovation And CuriosityMichael Hvisdos is the Partner and CEO at Inquizo. He has over 28 years of global experience in sales, business development, M&A, marketing, investor relations, product development/commercialization, operations, customer experience, customer loyalty, employee engagement, starting up new businesses and joint venture companies. He has raised over $100 Million in private equity and tax exempt bonds to finance new business ventures.



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