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QUESTIONS FOR Scott Shigeoka

Interview by Jason Hreno

The author of an Amazon Best Books of 2023 title explains the importance of moving up on the curiosity spectrum.

You believe the goal of curiosity isn’t to know but to understand. Why is this such an important skill in today’s world?
Curiosity is often seen as an intellectual tool for extracting information about the world in order to know something. But there is another form of it that I call ‘heart-centred curiosity.’ This entails asking deep questions and moving away from surface-level knowledge to a deeper understanding of a person. What were their experiences growing up? What values or relationships are important to them? Do they know their purpose?

This type of curiosity helps us see other people in more depth, and that is really important today because we live in an era of in-curiosity, where we’re turning on each other. Everywhere you look, cancel culture and toxic polarization are tearing us apart. We’re ending relationships before they even start because we disagree, so there are fewer chances for positive connections or dialogue. None of this will lead us to a place of justice, connection or belonging — all the things we strive for in our personal lives, in the business world and in society writ large. Achieving these things is the goal of heart-centred curiosity.

Describe what you call ‘the curiosity spectrum.’

Describe what you call ‘the curiosity spectrum.’ I grew up in Hawaii, so I like to use the ocean as a metaphor. Curiosity is much like the ocean in that there is a shallow aspect to it and a deeper part. On the shallow side, you understand someone on a surface level. You’re only getting bits of information: their name, where they live, where they work, whether they’re married, if they have kids. But as you move down the curiosity spectrum toward the deep end, you start to dive beneath the surface and see this person in a more complete way. Instead of learning what their job title is, you might learn about what excites them or challenges them at work, or about their purpose in life. Because these aren’t things you can see at the surface level, getting there takes more time, patience and exploration. But you do need to start out at the shallow end, to build the trust and connection that enables you to move toward the deep end. Just as with the ocean, the deep part isn’t necessarily better — it just offers different experiences. Both shallow and deep curiosity are important. One leads to the other — it’s all connected.


When deep curiosity is directed at us, it helps us feel seen, heard and valued — like we matter.


In terms of our personal and professional lives, what are a few of the key applications and benefits of curiosity?

When deep curiosity is directed at us, it helps us feel seen, heard and valued — like we matter. That’s the number-one reason why it is so important and why I am determined to bring it into people’s lives. In a personal context, curiosity toward your romantic partner, sibling or children makes them feel like you’re genuinely interested in what they’re thinking and feeling. This makes them feel good and secure, but it also makes both of you feel closer to one another. It builds trust, understanding and fortifies a strong foundation for times when conflict might arise.

The same is true professionally. As employees, when we feel that we truly matter on a team or at our organization, we want to contribute more. Our investment of time and energy keeps us engaged and prevents us from seeking opportunities elsewhere, where we know we won’t necessarily feel this same powerful feeling. Leaders need to know that if someone feels like they don’t matter, they will search to feel valued elsewhere.

Curiosity is also a key ingredient in building strong teams and keeping them engaged. Research shows that when a leader is curious and intellectually humble, people want to work with them. Leaders who embrace deep curiosity are seen as more competent because they seem genuinely interested and less arrogant. They don’t claim to have all the answers, but instead, are willing to challenge their assumptions, opinions or biases and explore what others think. These leaders are not only more successful but are also beloved by their people.


Not all curiosity is positive, though—can you define ‘predatory curiosity?’

True, deep curiosity needs to come from an authentic place of open-heartedness and open-mindedness. You can’t have an agenda or ulterior motives. By contrast, in the real world, sometimes we ask questions and engage another person, but only so we can lead them to say or do something; then it’s like, gotcha! With this disingenuous version of curiosity, we’re really just trying to confirm our own biases or waiting for our turn to speak and share our perspective — which is why I call this predatory curiosity.


Describe your D.I.V.E framework and how it helps us develop curiosity.

Curiosity is a muscle: if we exercise it daily, it grows; and if we never exercise it, it atrophies. To develop this muscle, we need a set of exercises, and that’s why I developed the D.I.V.E. model:

The ‘D’ stands for Detach. Let go of your ABCs — Assumptions, Biases and Certainty. Doing this takes effort and practice, but it’s necessary if you want to achieve true curiosity.

The ‘I’ is for Intend. You have to cultivate the intention of being curious and create the mindset and setting for it. Curiosity is deliberate, conscious and premeditated.

The ’V’ is for Value. You have to start from a place of seeing the dignity, humanity and value of the person you‘re being curious with. You can’t connect with someone if you don’t fundamentally value and respect them on a basic human level.

And lastly, ‘E’ is for Embrace. Welcome the hard times in your life. When we are going through a difficult period, that is exactly the time to be more curious and genuinely interested in others, because it’s going to be reflected back on us and reciprocated. Our own curiosity is going to create connections and unwind a lot of the fears and anxieties we’re feeling. Curiosity can actually help to liberate us from feelings of helplessness, fear, anxiety and isolation.


Can you describe the four ’speed bumps’ to curiosity, and how we can overcome them?

Sure — there are more than four, but the main ones are fear, trauma, time and distance. Fear gets in the way of curiosity because trying to learn about someone can be scary. What if they reject or dismiss our attempts? We may not know how best to connect with them. So, instead, we fall back on that fear. We’d rather things stay the same than be vulnerable to what curiosity could open up for us.

Next is trauma. Trauma isn’t like a broken bone; you can’t just heal it naturally. Spiritual wounds live in us for a long time, making it hard to be open and curious because we’re still healing, trying to find coping mechanisms to support our mental and physical health and well-being.

Third, a lot of us feel like we don’t have a lot of time to get curious, because we’re taking care of our kids, pets or aging parents, and working full-time with all these other obligations in our world. Who has the bandwidth?

And finally, there’s distance. We live in a really segregated time across race, age, etc., and we’re losing these socalled third spaces — communities like a religious congregation or something similar, where we interact with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds and life experiences. Devices only make this worse by keeping us in silos and ‘echo chambers.’

Curiosity can be the medicine or antidote for all of this. It can actually help us overcome our fears, help to heal buried trauma, unlock more time for us through mutually beneficial co-operation and help us bridge cultural, physical and emotional distances. And you can start getting curious about other people any time; there’s no right or wrong time in your life to start.


When deep curiosity is directed at us, it helps us feel seen, heard and valued — like we matter.


How does curiosity impact organizations overall? 

Curiosity isn’t just good for the soul and for our relationships. It’s also good for business. Leaders who are more curious have more creative teams and organizations. And creativity triumphs in today’s market: creative products, services, content and marketing campaigns and creativity in problem-solving at the team and organizational level are all huge markers of success.

Curiosity also fuels innovation. With rapidly advancing technology like AI, it’s going to be up to companies to reinvent themselves and for leaders to do the same, which requires innovative thinking and behaviour. One of the best ways you can create innovation for yourself and your company is by creating a more curious culture. Research shows that curious teams and organizations do better in the market from a strictly financial standpoint.

In general, team members need to remember that their fellow team members, regardless of background, are more than just their jobs. Having curiosity about them on a personal level is key because it helps you support the people you work with. And as a leader, having real relationships with people helps to create a respectful workplace where everyone is seen, heard and valued individually and equitably. All of this starts with being curious.

Most leaders recognize that their job isn’t just about helping their organization succeed, it’s also about helping human beings succeed. I advise people to remember that curiosity is one of their biggest assets and superpowers. And looking ahead, it’s only going to become an increasingly valuable competency in our world.

Scott Shigeoka is the author of SEEK: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World (Hachette Book Group, 2023). An IDEO alum, he is on the faculty of the University of Texas, Austin and is a Fellow at The Greater Good Science Center. For more visit:

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