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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Mar 8, 2017

Co-hosts Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview Becki Saltzman. Becki is a curiosity expert and an applied-curiosity trainer and consultant. In this interview, Jim, Jan and Becki discuss the nature of curiosity training vis-a-vis your curiosity muscle. Becki points out that asking additional questions is better than getting quick answers to obvious questions. Leaders can encourage innovation by fostering a culture of curiosity in their organization.

Listen in to learn more about how peak curiosity can clarify your  vision and guide decisions.


Key Takeaways

[4:03] Becki notes that you can control whether you are interested, more than whether you are interesting. If you are not interested in people, you don’t know about them, so you don’t know what will make you interesting to them. Curiosity can lead you to find uncommon commonalities with them.

[4:50] Becki was raised by auctioneers, and attended hundreds of auctions, where she found a variety of people and objects to stimulate her curiosity. In graduate school she realized that curiosity was relegated to an ingredient in the greater studies of innovation and creativity. She chose to study it in its own right.

[7:14] Becki tells leaders that curiosity is a muscle, to be exercised before judgment, criticism, fear, and complacency. Because it is a tool, peak curiosity is to be used in some, but not all, situations.

[11:55] Becki talks about managing familiarity and heightening curiosity in a business setting, and also in a personal setting. When her son was hospitalized, instead of just accepting a nurse’s statement about a test, Becki engaged her curiosity to ask a critical question that made a big difference.

[15:25] Becki distinguishes the difference between  free-range, basic curiosity vs. applied curiosity. Applied curiosity training concentrates on using curiosity as a tool in three areas: busting cognitive biases and brain bugs, creative problem-solving and innovation, and sales and influence.

[17:26] George Loewenstein identified the information gap between what you want to know, and what you do know. Becki found gaps between what you do know and what you need to know, and between what you want to know and what you need to know. Thinking, before you whip out a cell phone to search, is enough to keep the curiosity gap alive. Easy information can make us think we know enough.

[29:39] Elevating curiosity ahead of criticism, judgment, fear, and complacency is often enough to question why you make the decisions you make. Elevating curiosity makes your judgment more accurate.

[31:59] Becki starts curiosity training by identifying your curiosity archetype, or how you default to using curiosity. Each archetype has its own set of cognitive biases, fueled by assumptions. Once your biases are identified, you can evaluate whether to use them or not, in making decisions. Familiarity and expectations are the basis of assumptions.

[34:15] The minimum viable question in sales should be meaningful, unexpected, and not infused with any judgment. The reply is how you get your best information about the client or prospect. Becki’s MVQ is, “What did your childhood smell like?”

[39:26] Becki employs Richard Feynman’s learning technique of taking something very familiar, and manipulating your sense of familiarity about it, to bring yourself to peak curiosity.


Books Mentioned in This Episode

Living Curiously: How to Use Curiosity to Be Remarkable and Do Good Stuff, by Becki Saltzman

Arousing the Buy Curious: Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals, by Becki Saltzman

"The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation," by George Loewenstein

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, by Peter M. Senge

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie


Becki Saltzman holds a masters degree in behavioral science from Washington University in St. Louis, and has spent the last two decades studying curiosity and the role it plays in innovation & creativity, problem solving and decision-making, sales, and adventure. She is the author of Living Curiously: How to Use Curiosity to Be Remarkable and Do Good Stuff, and Arousing the Buy Curious: Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals. She is a trainer & consultant, professional speaker, and ex-real estate broker and fashion buyer. Becki is the founder of the Living Curiously Lifestyle and creator of Applied-Curiosity, Peak Curiosity, and the Living Curiously Method — frameworks and teaching programs for using curiosity to accomplish remarkable things in work, adventure, and life. She is the spawn of master persuader auctioneers and breeder of boys. When she’s not traveling to speak about curiosity, Becki lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband. She loves great travel adventures, crowded dance floors, and brown drinks.


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