Today at the office I reminded myself of a very important lesson that I learnt years ago and one that pays off every time I remember it; be curious!
Alone that isn’t very helpful, I know, so I’ll give it some context.
Why Being Curious Is Great
Today while doing a routine part of a regular task, logging in to our accounts system, I started looking at the other sections of the login screen. There was one to adjust the font, and another to keep a log of the work you do to help with tracking errors. Finally, there was an option for Global Login. Curious about what it might do, I ticked the box and logged in as usual.
Seeing no change, I loaded up the help file and searched for the term, which I found a very short page on explaining that as long as I remained logged into Windows (ie: not restarting, not logging off, not shutting down), I would no longer need to enter my user ID and password when logging in to the accounts system.
I tried it immediately and it worked, the usual login screen flashed by and I was logged in and out of the accounts system as fast as I could blink.
Considering that I log in and out multiple times during the day, maybe several times an hour depending on the work I’m doing, I wished I had known about that feature sooner!
So I raised the question with my colleague, did you know about this feature? The answer was no, from the guy who had spent years using the system. Perhaps it was one of the newer features, but they hadn’t upgraded for well over a year at least.
I had some task-related questions for some colleagues in the accounts department, so when I spoke to them, I also asked them about the login feature. None of them knew about it either.
And this is why it’s an important lesson to be curious, because I ended up saving a lot of people that slightly burdensome step of logging in every single time, just by flicking about the login screen and ticking a box.
The Other Side
This lesson does have a negative side as well, that may well deter you from going out and just hitting every button out there.
In one of my previous jobs, I was with a group testing out a new software that the company were going to be implementing. They wanted to know all the things you would expect when bringing in a new system; how fast it was, how easy it was to use, were the manual functions easy enough to use when the automatic ones didn’t work and so on.
The testing was pretty dull, and after some time, I wondered how the other options we weren’t testing worked. I tried the other options and ended up on a screen I couldn’t back out of, which meant that I had to go to the person leading the testing and explain what I had done. They weren’t very impressed with the fooling around, but helped me out and sent me back to carry on testing. Needless to say, I felt foolish and kept to the plan after that.
The next day, one of the testing heads came and found me, with another person from the team in tow, and told me directly that because I had gone off the testing track I had wasted two hours of their testing time. That was quite a blow and I felt really dumb. Even now in memory it’s quite painful, at the time it was borderline devastating.
I can see it from their point of view, my curiosity took the testing off track, and I won’t try to reason my way out of it no matter how much I want to. In that instance, asking how the other options worked would have been a much better approach.
While it is good to be curious and press all of the buttons, if the buttons you’re pressing are not yours, it’s better to ask someone else first if it’s okay. If there is no-one to ask, try and find a help file. If there is nobody and no help file, don’t press the button unless you’re relatively confident that nothing bad will happen, and if it does, own up to it.
So with the words on being responsible out of the way, I can talk about the fun part. When you follow your curiosity, it can lead you in ways you couldn’t have previously imagined. You try things out and find things that you’re good at or you find interesting enough to learn more about, then you find other people interested in them and share your learnings and end up helping each other, before you know it you end up better off in some way. It can be from finding a better way of working, striking up a new friendship or even finding yourself in a new job. My curiosity has brought me all three of those things over and over, so even though I try to reel it in a bit now, I still follow my curious nature.