Three Ways to Develop Intrinsic Curiosity

Curiosity is a skill that benefits us personally and professionally. Curiosity helps us with creativity, innovation and strategic problem solving among other skills. These are skills every organization wants more of in their employees. But there is a difference between intrinsic and extrinsic curiosity.

Extrinsic curiosity is when we are motivated by external forces to be curious. For example, if we see a box we can get curious as to what is inside. Or, in the case of organizations, we may be paid to be curious about every box we encounter. But typically, when we’re motivated by external rewards for curiosity, the motivation doesn’t last very long and the results are not as effective compared to being intrinsically motivated.

So, how do we develop intrinsic curiosity that lasts with better results?

Start with Self-Determination

MDNA is based upon a psychological framework for understanding intrinsic motivation called Self-Determination Theory (SDT). SDT teaches us that we have three psychological needs that motivate us: freedom, mastery and purpose.

  • Freedom is our sense of autonomy. It is the ability to make our own decisions and act without being controlled.

  • Mastery is our desire to develop competence. We all want to get good at the things that help us achieve our goals.

  • Finally, purpose involves how we relate to other people and the impact we make. Purpose gives us a sense of identity, belonging and significance.

It turns out that we all value these three needs in different priority. This gives us a clue on how to develop an intrinsically motivated sense of curiosity.

Prioritize Your Motivations

To develop intrinsic curiosity, the first step is to identify which one of the three motivates you most. Prioritize them. You now know what motivates you most to be curious and what to do about it.

For example:

  • If you value freedom, you can ask yourself, “How can I gain more freedom in this?” This will require you to be curious about to gain more responsibility and authority to make decisions on your own. This would be a great discussion to have with a manager.

  • If you value mastery, you can ask, “How do I master this better?” This will motivate you to be curious about how to improve on and practice the skills. You might experiment more or supplement your knowledge.

  • And if you value purpose, you can ask, “How can I make this more impactful for the people around me?” You will get curious about how others experience your work and what else they need. You will be open to feedback and empathize more with others.

As you explore each of these needs, you will realize that they all work together. For example, to gain more freedom, you could master an area of competence which will in turn cause others to trust you to do things on your own. The same goes for purpose. Mastery often makes the biggest impact. Try experimenting.

Ask Better Questions

What you will notice is that each of these needs is met starting with a question. Asking better questions is the fastest way to stimulate your curiosity. SDT is simply there to help guide which questions you motivate you and which answers you will value the most.

Fine Tune with Your Gifts

After you’ve prioritized the intrinsic motivations for curiosity, you can look deeper at your specific MDNA. Each MDNA gift addresses the three psychological needs of SDT in unique ways which will fine tune your intrinsic curiosity skills. But start with freedom, master and purpose. When you’re ready, look up your MDNA here.

Ed KangComment