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Make Better Decisions with Curiosity Loops

I think most would agree that one of the best resources for making better decisions is the advice of knowledgeable people who know us well. Unfortunately, it’s often an underutilized resource. The main challenge is, how do you actually do it?

I use something I call a curiosity loop to systematically extract wisdom from my network.

Curiosity Loops in Action

To get you inspired, here are some examples of curiosity loops I’ve run

  • I’ve been struggling to manage a never-ending to-do list. Can you share what you do personally and what lessons you’ve taken along the way?
  • I have someone on my team who is obviously very talented but can be unreliable. I have given them feedback in the past, but it doesn’t seem to stick. Any advice on what I could be trying?
  • We’re getting ready for a new baby. I imagine there are some surprises in store for us. What are the biggest lessons learned that you wish you’d known as a parent?
  • You’re someone I admire who wears multiple hats professionally. How do you juggle and prioritize across having multiple jobs pulling at your time?

How to Run a Curiosity Loop

Step 1. Come up with a good question

A good question has to be specific and meaty to get a good response. This gives them something to hang on to, and solicits their rationale.

An example of a bad question: what should I do with my career?

An example of a good question: I’m thinking about doing a dev boot camp and changing professions to be an engineer. Do you think it’s a good fit for me and why?

Step 2. Curate your list of people

Think about who would be helpful for you to answer this question. It isn’t necessarily always just people who know something about the topic area, but could also be someone who knows you very well.

Step 3. Ask them for their feedback

I use curiosity loops to answer everything from life questions to business questions, so depending on the context I’ll adapt the way that I ask it.

If it’s a loose personal question where I’m just trying to get a diversity of inputs, it becomes a question I ask in all my meetings during the week.

  • Example ask: Can I ask you a parenting question? We’ve been having a debate on the value of extracurriculars for our 2 year old daughter. She gets a lot of activities through her preschool, and we regularly take her out to hikes, shopping, and restaurants. We’ve also read about the value of unscheduled time. What’s been your take on things like swim and dance classes and how much to fit them in?

If it’s a professional question, I might frame it as a short, targeted request for feedback which they can respond to over email.

  • Example ask: Hi. A quick favor to ask from you — I’ve been invited to join Lenny’s podcast and am preparing some potential topic ideas for his audience. I wanted to ask for your help because with your xyz background. My ask: Take a few minutes and review the list below. What are the top 2-3 topics that you personally would be most interested in hearing about and why?

Step 4. Assess their feedback

After every piece of feedback arrives, ask yourself if there are any surprises? If they disagree with what you would have wanted to do, look at it closer.

Step 5. Close the loop

Instead of a generic thank you, close the loop by sharing some of what you’ve learned.