Understanding The Link Between Curiosity And Perception

In this episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton takes the floor and talks about two important things, curiosity and perception. These two go hand in hand as they cycle back into one another in various ways, shapes, or forms. She explains the massive role of curiosity in the success of people and businesses as she gives out examples of companies and how they incorporated curiosity into their success strategies. Learn how curiosity can constantly drive you to improve in order to keep up with the time and, more importantly, with the ever-changing and fast-evolving technology. She also dives into the power of perception by comparing the cultures of different areas as well as the minds of men and women. Listen in to fully understand how your experiences and environment affects how you see and digest the information around you.

TTL 751 | Curiosity and Perception

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Understanding The Link Between Curiosity And Perception

This show is going to be a little bit different and I’m excited about it because I’m going to be talking about curiosity. I talk on a lot of other people’s shows about what I work on, but I want to talk to you about the value of building curiosity within your organization. In addition, to hosting this show, I am also the creator of the Curiosity Code Index and I wrote the book Cracking the Curiosity Code. I give a lot of presentations where I talk about the importance of improving curiosity and getting out of status quo thinking. It sometimes helps if I share a story that you might find fascinating.

The Experiment

A lot of organizations are held back by a culture that doesn’t embrace curiosity. They go along with the way things have always been. I like to talk about an experiment that I share on stage about a hidden camera experiment, where they looked at how quickly people go along with the group. This woman went into a doctor’s office, thinking she’s getting an eye exam, but not known to her, everybody in the waiting room was not patients. They were actors. Every so often, an experiment, what was going on is they would have a bell ring. Every time that bell would ring, all of the actors around her, who she thought were patients would stand up and sit down with no explanation. After three times hearing the bell ring and without knowing why she was doing it, the woman stood up and sat down conforming with the group.

They thought, “This is interesting. She’s going along with what everybody else is doing. Let’s see what happens if we take everybody out of the room.” They call everybody back, as if they were patients one at a time. Eventually, she’s alone in the room and the bell rings. What she does is she stood up and sat down. She doesn’t know why she’s doing it. She’s going along with what everybody else had done. They thought, “This is fascinating. Let’s add some people to the room who are patients and see how she responds to the bell ringing and see how they respond.” The bell goes off, she stands up and sits down. The gentleman next to her, looks at her and says, “Why did you do that?”

She said, “Everybody else was doing it. I thought I was supposed to.” The next time the bell rings, he gets up and sits down with her. Slowly but surely, what a random rule for one woman is now social rule for everybody in the waiting room. It’s an internalized behavior that we call social learning. We see what other people do and we think, “That’s what I want to do because everybody else is doing it.” We reward ourselves because we don’t want to be excluded. It’s the part of how conformity can be comfortable, but going along with it, sometimes is you get bad habits, you stunt growth, you get the status quo thinking. That can be the downfall of organizations.

When we do things because they’ve always been done a certain way, we don’t progress and we don’t look for other ways to find solutions. I want to go beyond that. I want to know why we’re doing things? Why is it important and what are we trying to accomplish? That’s what I talked to companies about because I think they need to look at how and where are they modeling and fostering curiosity, and what action plans do they have in place to avoid status-quo thinking? Do they have all the answers and how can they take what they learn from different events and utilize that to make some changes? It’s important because curiosity has been the foundation behind the Model T to self-driving cars. We know that leaders believe they encourage curiosity and exploration, but I’ve had Francesca Gino on the show who’s done a lot of great research in this area.

We know that most of the employees don’t feel rewarded for it if they explore their curiosity. If we want organizations to generate innovative ideas, we have to help them through leaders developing that desire to explore. My job is to be curious. I ask questions and get information for a living. I do that through the show, teaching, and speaking everything I do. It’s something I want to share with other people because it’s such a huge part of what makes companies successful. I look at curiosity as the spark that ignites the process that everybody’s trying to achieve. Think of it as baking a cake. If your goal is to bake a cake, you’ve got all these ingredients. You have eggs and milk and flour, whatever it takes to bake the cake. You mix it together, put it in the pan, and put it in the oven, what happens?

[bctt tweet=”Asking questions, writing comments, and giving input all come out of curiosity. ” username=””]

Losing Your Curiosity

If you didn’t turn on the oven, you get goo. Nothing happens. That’s a huge problem that organizations are trying to get. Instead of cake, they’re trying to get productivity. We’re trying to make money. They know the ingredients. They know they want motivation, drive, engagement, creativity, communication, all of the soft skills. They’re mixing those ingredients and what they’re not doing is turning on the oven. The oven or the spark is curiosity. If you don’t turn on the oven, no one gets cake. That’s what I’m trying to talk to companies about. We know that kids are naturally curious. I love a picture from the San Francisco Museum of Art from Life Magazine in 1963. They have these two little girls that are adorable, looking through this break on the wall that they can see behind the air conditioning vent.

They’re supposed to be looking at all the artwork on the walls because it’s the San Francisco Museum of Art, but what the kids do is they want to see what’s behind the vent. We were all that way. Three-year-olds ask their parents about 100 questions a day. At that age, you’re curious. You want to find out how everything works. There’s some time that we eventually lose some of that and think about it, when did you stop wanting to look behind the vent and did somebody say, “Stop that get up. You’re getting dirty. Don’t look behind there?” We get that. That’s what our parents do. You have to behave. We’ve seen a big decline in curiosity and creativity. There are some great TED Talks about the creativity aspect, which ties in similarly to what curiosity and what we see.

It peaks around age five and it tanks as soon as you go through school and about the age of 18 through 31, even we’re seeing very low levels. Ken Robinson has a great talk about how we educate people out of our creativity and competencies. George Land also has a great talk about his work with NASA. He looked at kids. He followed them at age five and found that 98% of children were creative geniuses. By the time they were 31, only 2% were, and it was a huge difference. George Land says that we have convergent and divergent thinking. He talks about it in terms of, we put on the gas and try to come up with all these great ideas, but at the same time, we over criticized them and we put on the brake.

Anybody who drives a car knows that when you put the brake on and at the same time, you put on the gas, you don’t go very far. That’s what’s happening to our curiosity and our creativity. I thought this is interesting because curiosity can translate into serious business results and CEOs get that. A lot of them are not investing in the culture of curiosity, but some of them are doing some amazing things. I want to talk about what the cost is of lost curiosity and what it is. There are so many aspects of what costs companies. We know that they’re losing $16.8 billion due to emotional intelligence. If you ask the Consortium for AI, or if you look at Gallup’s numbers, they are losing $500 billion a year lost due to poor engagement.

I’ve seen everything. Communication Holmes has it at $37 billion. I’ve seen how much higher. It depends where you look. We’re talking tens to hundreds of billions for each of these issues, emotional intelligence, communication, and engagement. It’s a huge problem out there and companies know that. They’re losing money, but they don’t recognize the value sometimes of curiosity. When we would talk about curiosity, there’s a big innovation factor, because we want to be more innovative, but we’re worried about job loss and jobs being automated. We know that if we’re not innovative, the majority of the Fortune 500 companies from 1995 are gone and no one wants to be Kodak. Nobody wants to be Blockbuster. Netflix ate Blockbuster’s lunch. The reason those companies are not here is because they looked at things from the status quo way that they’ve always done things.

Leaders Of Curiosity

They didn’t want to cannibalize their product or whatever the success they have. If you do that, the world keeps moving and you get stuck and that’s a huge problem. It was interesting to me to study curiosity. There’s a lot of research and curiosity, but there’s not the great statistics I’d like to see. There’s a state of curiosity report that Mark did in 2018. It showed that curiosity was higher and larger companies than smaller ones. It was 37% versus 20%. Millennials were more curious than Gen Z and Boomers. The US had a higher level of curiosity compared to China, but maybe they weren’t as high as Germany. That’s one report I’d like to see a lot more research done. It’s fun to look at what experts have shared regarding the value of curiosity.

Francesca Gino did a great job with the HBR article that she wrote it. I loved having her on the show. I hope you check out that show because it’s amazing. In that report, she talked about leaders, recognized curiosity is important and they think that they’re encouraging it. We found that most of the employees don’t believe that. Only 24% feel like they’re curious about their jobs and 70% said they face barriers to stay curious and asking questions. She did some great research. If you get a chance, I would recommend reading that show and also check out that HBR article.

TTL 751 | Curiosity and Perception
Curiosity and Perception: When we do things just because they’ve always been done a certain way, we don’t progress, and we don’t look for other ways to find solutions.


I’ve had Daniel Goleman on the show. He was incredible. We talked about how emotional intelligence ties in and he was cute because he said he couldn’t see why I developed a measure of curiosity because I’m very curious. He was talking about an article in HBR as well by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, saying that curiosity is one of the most important competencies in the future. That’s a huge plug for curiosity coming from Daniel Goleman. He was talking about younger generations of question, organizational missions, more than older generations. We got into a great discussion about that. I hope you take some time to read that.

Another great episode on the show was with Amy Edmondson, who has an incredible TED Talk and she gets into curiosity and how it ties into collaboration. She does a TED Talk about teams and teaming and gets into how the Chilean miner disaster was able to be resolved because of a lot of it was because of curiosity. She says, “You got to look at what are you trying to get done, your goal, what’s in your way, concerns, worries, barriers, and what resources, talent, skills, and experience do you bring.” She talks about how they did all that to get those Chilean miners out from under that rock. It’s definitely worth watching her TED Talk. All of them have TED Talks that are amazing.

A great guest as well on the show was Doug Conant, the guy who turned around Campbell Soup. He did that by asking questions. He asked employees what motivated them and then he looked at how to build engagement by writing 10 to 20 personal notes, six days a week. He counted at 30,000 plus, which is huge because when he took over, it was in 2002, they had 12% engagement. By 2009, they were up to 68%. He did some amazing things by asking questions, writing comments, and giving input. All that stuff comes out of curiosity.

Another great guest of the show is Zander Lurie who’s the CEO of SurveyMonkey. They’re so much into curiosity. They got permission to change their street address to One Curiosity Way. I was asking him some of the things that they do because they have a culture of curiosity there and they ask, “How can we make our products more productive for our customers? How can we create an environment where people do their best work?” He said that they do skip-level meetings so that they can find out what works and what doesn’t.

Those are some examples of people who are on the show. There are other examples that are fascinating. Some companies like Monopoly, Ben & Jerry’s, and VanMoof. I’ve looked at some of them to see how they used curiosity to go a step further. Monopoly did some research because they always come out with the dogs or cats version. They didn’t want to come out with another version. They decided to come out with some research to find out what people did with Monopoly and what they can learn about it. They found out that over half the people cheat when they play Monopoly. They came out with the Cheater’s Edition and that was their second-biggest release since the initial release of Monopoly.

Ben & Jerry’s got some interesting information in what they do in terms of not getting into the status quo of thinking. They don’t just keep flavors around forever. They do research to find out what’s working. They ask questions, “What’s a good flavor? What’s no longer a good flavor?” Instead of freaking out that their flavors are no longer successful, they celebrate them and give them a burial. They even have a headstone on their website where they show, “This flavor was alive from this year to this year.” They celebrate their success and then they move on.

[bctt tweet=”We come into this world with this predisposition of how we view and interpret things. ” username=””]

The story that’s interesting is VanMoof. They make these bikes and they would send them in packages in the mail or UPS. A lot of them were ending up broken and they kept trying to fix these bikes. There was an issue with the packaging and they didn’t want to spend a lot more money because if you make the package twice the size, you get a lot more expenses. They’re trying to figure out how to do this to make their bikes not break and yet not go over on the spending. What they’ve looked at was the type of box they were using. They noticed it was similar to a flat-screen television box and they looked into how many flat screens broke and they weren’t breaking. The only real difference was the flat screens had a picture of a flat-screen on the box.

They thought, “Let’s draw a picture of a flat-screen, a little bit of extra ink and see what happens.” There was a dramatic difference in the amount of a damaged bicycle. Think outside the box. Sometimes it’s asking questions and Disney did a lot of that. They did some great questioning to find out what was happening with their turnover. The laundry division of Disney, as glamorous as it sounds is not. They were losing a lot of people that didn’t love working there and they couldn’t figure out why. They put out a questionnaire to their employees and said, “How can we make your job better?” They didn’t expect to get things back that they could do anything about, but they did. They got back great things and they got back things like, “Put an air vent over my workspace. Make my table adjustable when I’m folding things that works for my height.”

Those are things like, “Yes, we can fix that.” They did. Going to the horse’s mouth, the employee and say, “How can we make this better?” was huge for them. Sometimes it’s not just the employee. Sometimes it’s leaders. In the book Cracking the Curiosity Code, I gave a story about the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. They were having a lot of patients that were dying when they were being transferred from one unit to the other. Some physicians were watching a Formula One race car event one night and were impressed by how quickly that the Formula One crew would take the car apart, put it back together in seven seconds and they’re looking at this going, “They did that with no problems and we can’t transfer people from here to here.”

They thought, “Why don’t we have this Ferrari team so they can show us any kind of improvements that we could make?” They did get some great ideas which reduced their errors by more than 50%. We think inside of our cubicle, silos, but sometimes we need to think outside of even our industry because that can be important. Some of the greatest ideas are from that. I gave you some examples, but we know we came up with a Velcro from a Swiss engineer, hunting with his dog and came back with burrs in his fur. He’s like, “What are these things? Why are they sticking?” What he did was he stuck it under the light to look at it.

The Culture Of Learning

He saw a hook-and-eye the way it hooked together and thought, “Why don’t we try this?” In 1998, they made something like $93 million in Velcro and it was sold in 40 countries. It did amazingly well. You have to build a culture of learning. To do that, it’s important to look at some companies that do a great job of it. A top company I work with that does that is Novartis. Novartis does a great job because they have a curiosity as part of their core cultural value. They encourage employees to spend 100 hours a year on employer-paid education to broaden their interests. They do everything from paying for them to watch videos, to having them perform in mini TED events, having employees be the actual speakers, and things like that.

It’s cool how much they do this. They have the whole month of September as their Curiosity Month. I’m one of the speakers for them. I know how much time and effort they put into this. If you look at how much everybody talks about how they liked working at the company, 90% of the employees surveyed approved to the CEO. Think of how often you see that. That’s a huge thing. They’re doing some ongoing research with curiosity with me and I’m excited for that. One of their employees is writing her doctoral dissertation and we’re looking at the curiosity and how it compares to if you intervene and give them some information about things that are holding them back. I’m anxious to share that information when it comes out because I did a lot of research for a lot of my talks and my book Cracking the Curiosity Code.

TTL 751 | Curiosity and Perception
Curiosity and Perception: If we want organizations to generate innovative ideas, we have to help them through leaders developing that desire to explore.


Curiosity’s Enemy

I looked at so much that’s out there. We know that there are some great TED Talks from Daniel Pink. He wrote Drive. We’ve got a great book. Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why, and all the stuff that he’s talking about. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. All those are huge. I started to look at what is this curiosity thing.  The Max Planck Institute coined the term “The curiosity gene.” It’s in people and animals. It creates dopamine. It makes us feel good. If you don’t have curiosity, if you’re a bird and you’re flying around a bush and you run out of berries, you’re going to die if you don’t have curiosity to go look at another bush. I wanted to know, as I was researching for the book, I wanted to write about curiosity, but I’m like, “Where’s the assessment that tells you what stops it? There isn’t one.”

That surprised me because the assessments, all told you if you were curious or not. That’s all good because you do want to know if somebody is highly curious or not. The Big Five Factors will tell you if you’re open to experience and things like that. I want to know what stops it. Nobody had studied that. I did. I wanted to know what holds us back. I found out what it is and it is FATE. FATE stands for Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment. I want to talk about these separately because fear is about failure, fear of embarrassment, loss of control. Nobody wants to feel like they said something stupid in a meeting. We all want to feel like we’re all prepared. We’re all in the meeting and we’re thinking, “I want to ask that, but I don’t want to look dumb.” You lean next to Joe, next to you, “Why don’t you ask?” It’s better for Joe to look dumb. You don’t want to look dumb.

That’s a huge problem with companies because you get a lot of, “Yes men, yes women,” because nobody wants to shake up things or look like they’re trying to confront their leaders. Leaders who haven’t modeled the value of curiosity will come across that way. I’ve had leaders look at me and say things that, “I have one guy. He asked me to do something and I said, ‘Sure, I’d be happy to do that. I’ve never had to. How do I do that?’” He looked at me with disgust and said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

What does that make you feel? First of all, it tells you you’re an idiot. It tells you that you should know this. You should lie or pretend you know things. I don’t know. We get a lot of leaders who will say, “Don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions.” That sounded good at the beginning because it sounded like we were going to get rid of these whiners and complainers that we didn’t have any ideas, but a lot of people don’t know how to solve the problem. If we say that, then we’re saying, we don’t want to know about problems. That’s a huge issue.

The assumptions that we make, that’s that voice in our head that tells us, “I’m not going to be interested. I’m apathetic. It’s unnecessary. Last time I did that, they gave me more work,” whatever it is, we all have that voice. It talks us out of stuff. I sometimes I’ll hold up a bottle of water and talk that I’m giving and I’ll ask, “How heavy is this?” They’ll say 6 or 8 ounces. I’ll say, “It doesn’t matter. What matters is how long I hold it? If I hold it for a minute, it doesn’t bother me. My arm’s fine. If I hold it for an hour, my arm gets tired. After a day, my arm feels paralyzed.” That’s how our assumptions are. The voice in our head is a fleeting thought, no big deal. We get past it.

After an hour, we might hold on to a little more. After a day, it starts to stay with us. We have to recognize that we might be telling ourselves all of these things that we could maybe be interested in or maybe somebody would help us learn, but we talk ourselves out of them. Assumptions are a big thing. What I found interesting was technology was also a big factor and curiosity is impacted by over and under-utilization of technology. It could either do it for you or you’re not trained in it or you’re overwhelmed by it. Some people have had great experiences in their childhood where they had a lot of foundational learning and technology.

[bctt tweet=”We’re intended to be different, not to be exactly the same. Life would be super boring if it was that way.” username=””]

Steve Wozniak is one. I love his book iWoz. He talks about his dad telling him how to connect gadgets. He would come back with all these wires and get things from work and show him how the electronics should be connected and why this wire was necessary and how it brought electricity. A lot of us don’t have that experience. A lot of us might be the greatest mathematicians in the world, but if somebody threw us a calculator or Siri did it for you, you’re not ever going to have the foundation behind it. There’s got to be times where we have high foundation days where we build without technology and we learn behind it. There’s got to be days where we take advantage of it and learn how can we use it and not become overwhelmed by it.

The environment’s a big one for a lot of people because it’s everybody from your teachers, family, friends, social media leaders, peers, past leaders, current leaders, and everybody you’ve ever worked with. We know that curiosity can be influenced by everybody we’re around. The numbers I gave earlier about how it peaks at age five a curiosity, and then it tanks after that. A lot of that could be going into school and the teachers don’t have time because they’re teaching to the test. You got many students in class, you can’t answer why all the time.

Our siblings can be brutal. If you do something that they don’t think is cool, then you can take the wrath from that. It’s challenging to look at what has impacted us. That’s one of the reasons why my research was interesting to me because I looked at these four factors of Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment, FATE. Those were the inhibitors for the curiosity code index and they were pretty evenly matched. Assumptions were higher and the environment were higher than technology maybe, but then you can have an overlap. You could have fear of technology, for example.

It was fascinating to do the research. I studied thousands of people for years to see what inhibited them. I started out by putting a thread on LinkedIn and asking people. I got interested in that and I hired people to do all this factor analysis and ended up doing my own research because a lot of the research kept coming back in the same fashion of trying to find out if you’re curious or not. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to find out what inhibits us. It was interesting to look at the difference between men and women. Men were less impacted by fear than women, but they were more impacted by that voice in their heads. They were equal to women and technology, but then maybe more impacted by their environment.

These results are what I’ve seen and I’d like to see more research done, but it is interesting to take a look at how these different factors impact us. What I do is I train people to take the Curiosity Code Index. I either do the training at companies myself or I train consultants or HR professionals to give it. If those people get certified, they get five hours of SHRM Recertification credits. There’s a lot of different versions of training that I offer. What’s interesting is when they go through the training class that employees are training about this, they get to find out their results from the CCI and then they get to learn. It’s like taking a Myers-Briggs or a DiSC. It takes ten minutes. You get the big report back on a PDF within a few minutes of taking it. It’s simple and they get to get their results.

They then go through this personal SWOT analysis, which is cool because they look at ways to create smart goals, measurable goals to overcome some of these areas that are inhibiting them. Not only do they do that, but then we do a similar thing for the corporation as a whole, back to how they did it in Disney. You go to the horse’s mouth or employees and say, “How can we fix these things within the company? How can we help you become more curious?” If there are issues with the innovation, engagement, whatever the company issues are, the training classes are a great starting place to go to the employees and say, “How can we make you more curious so we can have this end product? How can we get cake?”

You find out and the trainers would go back to leaders with this great report, “This is what employees would like to do to help them improve so that we can all improve and make more money.” It’s important for the future of companies that people have to try, explore, poke at, and question it. It’s a huge thing that you need to ask yourself about, “How can I be vulnerable and allow this culture of learning?” Maybe I don’t have all the answers and think about what are you doing to foster curiosity and what action plans do you have?

TTL 751 | Curiosity and Perception
Curiosity and Perception: Men are less impacted by fear than women, but they’re more impacted by that voice in their heads.


How do you do this in this tumultuous time? Thinking about this, it’s challenging for a lot of people. I have created a free course. A lot of people can get a lot of value out of if you’re interested in taking it. If you go to DrDianeHamilton.com and scroll down to the bottom, it offers a free course. If you sign up, it’s a simple thing. They send it right to you and you can learn a lot more about curiosity, factors and see a lot of videos from some of the talks I’ve given and some of the stuff I’ve talked about here is in there. A lot of the chapters from the book are in there. It’s a good foundational way to learn more about curiosity. I wanted to give you that information and I hope you check out DrDianeHamilton.com and CuriosityCode.com.


I get many great guests on the show. Sometimes I want to take some little bit of time to talk about some of the research I do. I’m going to talk to you about perception and 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. She’s been great in this process of researching how perceptions process in our mind, opinions, version of the truth, biases, how we live, and what’s in a rose? 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 because we looked at it as a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ for Cultural Quotient, CQ for Curiosity Quotient.

We thought, “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 our perceptions. What is a reality to us may not be a 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 others have done to try and look at this because the world’s changing.” We’ve seen The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman. It is a great book. We know that what we used to think is the reality of everything that we thought we could do. Now, it’s different. We’re becoming more connected and we know that there are a lot more issues with the global tragedies.

As companies are trying to do work in a global dot-com industry, it’s a lot different of how we look at things than when I originally got into the workplace or when Maja got into it. We’re looking at our belief systems of what shape us and both consciously and unconsciously because if we know that we can be more responsive and respond to this multicultural and multilanguage world in which we’re living. If 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. Maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in, but 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. 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. We looked at what was available in terms of assessments out there of how can we test, 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 with twins. They’re different if they were separated at birth. There’s a different upbringing. We have this cultural impact on how our behaviors, our beliefs, and everything that we relate to is impacted by our social and ethnic and age group. We’re seeing that there’s a lot more conflict in the world. 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 questionable in another culture. If you’re wearing a miniskirt in Brazil is 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 allowing our culture, our society dictate what we’re thinking and what we’re perceiving. I’ve had Joe Lurie on the show. He’s 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 eye contact in Western cultures is maybe candor and confident. If you go to Africa, they don’t want to do that because of eye contact with a person of authority, you got to worry about respect. There’s a lot of different issues when you’re talking about Western culture versus other cultures. Asian cultures 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.

[bctt tweet=”To make life extraordinary and make a difference, you must see things differently. ” username=””]

Research By Comparison

Looking at different areas is fascinating, even how certain hand gestures mean one thing and okay in one language and maybe insulting in another culture. There’s a lot of studies that look at Western culture versus other cultures and that is worth reviewing, but 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 read 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 sending. When saying something, keep it simple, stupid. One thing and 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. These are the things that we were looking at when we decided we needed to look at cultural quotients than IQ and CQ. Our drive, motivation, knowledge, cognition, 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?

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. We want to try and get people to get along. I know I’ve had Amy Edmondson talking about teams and teaming and how people get along and a lot of collaboration is about having the 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, but some people have this impact of how important their spirituality or their religion is to them. 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 it of how important something is to them.

I don’t think a lot of people give a lot of thought to the differences of how much strength that can have in their ideas and things that they question or don’t question. It can have a big impact because we inherit a lot of beliefs from our family and we personalize our beliefs. We take things that work for us that 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 and vice versa. That is a problem in the business world if we don’t examine what 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 essential to effective leadership, we have to look at your greater purpose.

What do they think is their greater purpose and what are our values or our ethical principles? What are theirs and what will our legacy be? Those are the things that we researched in terms of how people use their religion and spirituality in that. It was also fun to look at gender to see the differences of how people look at paintings. There was a comment we put in the book, two strangers, a man and woman were visiting an art gallery and 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 and with various barns, outbuildings serving as a background.

The woman without prompting commented, “What a beautiful painting. 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 looked 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 is seeing the great thing and the woman’s 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 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 are the kinds of things that are important to leaders to recognize that we have to know the origins of all this and why we see things through this different lens. We know that men’s brain is structurally different than the female brain. That’s a fascinating thing to look at in itself. We’re not going to see things in the same way exactly. There’s a book, a New York Times Bestseller called The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine and she’s a neuropsychiatrist. She also later wrote The Male Brain.

TTL 751 | Curiosity and Perception
Curiosity and Perception: 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.


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. She said that the women’s perceptions of behaviors are different demands mostly due to hormones, which we do have different hormones. We know that women have more estrogen-progesterone, maybe we have testosterone but not as much as men. It goes all the way back to some of these hormones. It’s 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, I think it was from Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

It was The Sunday Times Magazine section. They 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 life that he didn’t notice. She would notice a smell of a problem of a girlfriend, 100 miles away, or some kind of 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 recognize that these things are part of us that we’re intended to be different. We’re not intended to be exactly the same.

When life may be super boring if it was that way. I 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 would like to see it higher. We know that women are bringing in different perceptions into the workplace. Those are different aspirations. It is an interesting thing to look at how it 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.

We’re carving a different road for ourselves, the women versus the men. That’s important to know that we’re evolving. When we’re doing that, we’re impacted by our intelligence in this process. If we look at intelligence, we talk about IQ and EQ. If we’re thinking of intelligence is 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 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’s all these different types of what we learn and how it changes over time is a very important thing to look at.

Emotional Intelligence

Also, Howard Gardner’s very heavily cited in the area of types of intelligence and we thought we had one kind, but he studied all these different types of abilities that we have. You could have naturalistic intelligence, music’s intelligence, logical and mathematical intelligence, this existential intelligence, body kinesthetic, verbal-linguistic, interpersonal visual, spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, the list goes on and on. To say if somebody is smart is a hard thing to do because there are these different types of ways of being smart. 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, 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.

Understanding Perception

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, but emotions play a big part of how we make decisions. If you want to talk about empathy as a big part of emotional intelligence. If we have empathy, sometimes that ties into curiosity that we’re asking questions to learn more about each other. Our emotions be different across cultures. If you have different studies between Japanese and American subjects, they found facial expressions and nonverbal behaviors vary significantly between them. I had a 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. I thought that was fascinating.

[bctt tweet=”Our perception suggests we know something, but our curiosity proves that we don’t. ” username=””]

My father was born blind. 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 in the influences around you of how you respond to your emotions. Your emotions can make you perceive failure differently either. Some of us have a fight or flight response. Some of us will run from it or some of us will 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. Maja and I write one in the book about different experiences where sometimes you’re in a sales presentation. You get your rear end handed to you and you might be on a call with your partner. 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 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. If you don’t, you’re going to end up being the glass half empty person and you won’t move forward and you’ll stay where you are and move backward. That’s what we’re trying to avoid by understanding perception. The other thing that we looked at when we were looking at perception was whether if it’s your reality or not. I think looking at some of the perception experts, especially Beau Lotto, I love his TED Talks. 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 is fascinating.

I think talking about perception, you need to talk about collaboration because collaboration required skillset in the workplace. If you’re being hindered by your perceptions, there are so many variables. Think of the questions we ask ourselves, does this project intrigued 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 life or death, literally in this case to help people get out from under that rock.

Understanding that perception is critical to collaboration, to get people to work together, being innovative and creative is interesting. We’re talking about how much we have problems with 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. I love in the Dead Poets Society movie. Robin Williams had the students get on top of their desks to look at life in a different way. He said, “To make a difference, you must see things differently.” 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 Lego’s and we’ve had people build things as teams and collaborative ways. It’s fun to see them get ideas from each other and go, “I would have never looked at it that way.” If you 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. If everybody thinks the same way, life’s boring. It helps to look at things from a critical thinking standpoint to do research, “How do 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. Those are the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves. I think we get enough of that. I think that there’s a lot of people who want to take things at face value based on what they’ve always known and what supports their values that they’ve always had. That’s common for people. You watch the same 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. A lot of people aren’t asking enough questions and 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 to 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 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, but 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, I mentioned before that you’re losing $500 billion a year according to Gallup that when people are financially invested, they want to return.

TTL 751 | Curiosity and Perception
Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential

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. Part of that is to ask questions and to understand each other better. If you’re asking questions again, 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 from our own standpoint, but theirs. Some of the questions that we need ask to improve engagement, like, “Do my employees filter growing in their work? Are they being recognized for their work? Do they trust that the company is 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 great book information about engagement an that’s helpful.

All this is so that we can be better leaders and employees. We have to submit time suspend our beliefs, be agile, and 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 looking at what the perception process is and how can we manage our perceptions? We looked at creating an assessment that would be important and EPIC decision of how can we help people understand that what they go through? What does the process look like? We found it’s about evaluating, predicting, interpreting, and reshaping, and we’re correlating one’s perceptions.

The EPIC came up with 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? It’s very similar if you’ve taken the Curiosity Code Index is 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 kinds of things are holding you back because 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 because, 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 of this one is more 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. That’s a lot of a problem that I see a lot of people don’t recognize body language, issues, or tone, or if they’re typing in all caps. There are 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 act. In a way, that’s another part of emotional intelligence is their interpersonal awareness of, are they able to understand the other person? Where they’re coming from? What their perception, capabilities, abilities, and how 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 and have empathy and ask questions and have that sense of emotional intelligence. It’s only then that you can make your interpretation. In 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. A lot of this ties back into their culture of how were they raised and 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 and company culture shape them? It’s about assessing and understanding your own emotions for the EPIC part.

That I part is more about putting it collectively together to interpret what you know. You end with your conclusions. Your correlation is your final C of the EPIC process because when you have all this, you can come up with solutions and conclusions. After researching your facts, this is the critical thinking aspect of it all. We know that there are many great ideas that come out. If you don’t go to the part where you end it with coming up with the idea, take 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.

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 DrDianeHamilton.com. All of the assessments are there. You can take the Curiosity Code Index, Perception Power Index, 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. I hope that this helps you understand perception a little better.

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About Diane Hamilton

TTL 751 | Curiosity and PerceptionDr. 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 which 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, including Steve Forbes, Keith Krach, Ken Fisher, Dave Ulrich, and Verne Harnish. She is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who has shared the stage with top speakers including Marshall Goldsmith, Martha Stewart, Daymond John, Travis Bradberry, and Jeffrey Hayzlett. She has been featured on Forbes, INC, Investors Business Daily, First for Women, Investopedia, SHRM, International Institute for Learning, International Coach Federation, HR Virtual Summit, Flerish YOU app (in association with Reid Hoffman), Cross Knowledge (Wiley), Training Industry, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.


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