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April 15, 2015

Interviews: Charles Fishman & Brian Grazer

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 10:00 AM – Filed under:



"Curiosity is the spark for creativity and innovation, the best long-term investment you can make."


We began our Thinker in Residence series yesterday with a Q&A with Charles Fishman about his new book, A Curious Mind. The book, as you probably know by now if you're reading this, was written with Brian Grazer, and is from his perspective. Today we posted a ChangeThis Manifesto from them, also written from Grazer's perspective, about Six Kinds of Curiosity: And How You Can Use Them to Change Your Life. We have also just posted the books Introduction on our excerpts channel, so go check that out, but first...

Here is an excerpt from that ChangeThis manifesto to get you started:

What’s Curiosity Done for You Lately? Probably Not Enough

Curiosity has been the most important quality in giving me the life I’ve always wanted as a movie and TV producer in Hollywood. In fact, curiosity is so important to me that for 35 years I’ve done something that I’ve never heard of anyone else doing—in Hollywood, or anywhere else.

Every week or two, I have conversations with people who have nothing to do with show business. I invented a discipline for myself that I call “curiosity conversations.” I ask accomplished people from all kinds of fields—diplomacy, physics, sports, music, politics, business, literature—to sit down and talk for an hour or two about their work and their world.

I’ve been doing this since well before I had made any movies like A Beautiful Mind or Apollo 13—since well before I had made movies anyone had heard of.

The curiosity conversations have this wonderful contradiction at their heart. When I have them, I am not looking for movie or TV ideas. I literally tell the people I’m hoping to talk to that I’m not interested in doing a movie on them or their work—whether that’s being a counter-intelligence agent or a super-model. I tell them I’m just interested in them and their world.

I’m just curious.

It is that very quality of having a relaxed, open-ended conversation that allows all kinds of new ideas, new connections, and fresh perspectives to percolate.

The fact that I’m not looking for ideas is what creates the space and the freedom to see new ideas.

At this point, I’ve had more than 470 curiosity conversations—with four presidents of the United States, four CIA directors, seven Nobel Laureates, at least a dozen hip-hop musicians.

That lifelong habit of one-on-one curiosity inspired me to dig deeper into the power of curiosity, to write a book with the journalist and author Charles Fishman. We’ve spent two years talking about and researching curiosity—hours of conversation each week analyzing the value of curiosity, what snuffs it out and what ignites it, the mysteries of why some people seem so open-heartedly curious.

Remarkably, we stumbled into the most useful and most interesting quality of curiosity in the very first conversation we had, literally within 20 minutes of starting to talk about it. It’s a characteristic we don’t seem to notice, let alone discuss and teach...

There are many different kinds of curiosity.

Curiosity comes in a whole variety of qualities and wavelengths, flavors and intensities.

The curiosity of a couple on their first date—emotional curiosity, what’s this person like, do we connect?—is very different from the curiosity of a real estate agent meeting with a family to figure out what kind of house they need to buy. A homicide detective and an advertising executive are both trying to solve puzzles, but using very different kinds of questions.

When you start to tease apart the kinds of curiosity, you quickly realize that there are different kinds of curiosity because there are very different ways of using it.

The questions and answers you exchange with a fellow guest at a friend’s wedding, someone who just happens to be seated next to you at lunch, are very different from the kinds of questions and answers you exchange with a job candidate, or with your doctor before you undergo your first colonoscopy.

Curiosity is an incredible tool. But what I realized, what really inspired my desire to write A Curious Mind with Charles Fishman, is that most people don’t use their curiosity with a sense of purpose and understanding—with insight about curiosity itself.

Curiosity is the key to understanding people’s personalities and motivations.

Curiosity is a vital storytelling tool—and storytelling is the best way to engage and persuade other people, in your work life and your personal life.

Curiosity is a fantastic source of courage.

Curiosity is the best, most under-used management tool—a great way to create engagement in your fellow works, but also a great way to transmit values and priorities.

Curiosity is the spark for creativity and innovation, the best long-term investment you can make.

Curiosity is the best way to stay connected to those who are most important to you.

Curiosity, in fact, turns out to be a quiet superpower that all of us have. You don’t need an Ivy League education to use it, you don’t need a high-speed Internet connection.

What’s curiosity done for you lately? We’re betting it hasn’t done enough.


"Curiosity … turns out to be a quiet superpower that all of us have. You don’t need an Ivy League education to use it, you don’t need a high-speed Internet connection."



Previous

Read our Q&A with Charles Fishman, and check out our general manger Sally Haldorson's review of the book.

Next

Go read the full ChangeThis manifesto and take a gander at the introduction to the book, and check back in tomorrow for the final installment of the series, when we'll be talking business and books.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.