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In a 2015 PwC survey of a thousand CEOs globally, ‘curiosity’ and ‘open-mindedness’ were identified as increasingly critical leadership traits in these complex and challenging times. My own experience with c-suite executives supports this thesis and shows every leader and their organisations will benefit by investing in learning to become more curious. Better answers to today’s complex challenges and groundbreaking ways of grasping big opportunities come from asking the right questions. And the ability to ask probing, out-of-the-box questions comes from being deeply imaginative, and from having the courage and insight to ask penetrating ‘Why’ questions, as well as speculative ‘What if ’ and ‘How’ questions? In other words, to be curious.

Curiosity killed the cat refers in everyday parlance to the dangers of needless risk-taking and experimentation. But a lack of curiosity is what kills many an executive’s career. This is a story about Luke Potter (pseudonym) who believed the reasons for his previous success as a CEO could easily be transferred to his new role. Luke is still wondering why he failed and why he was asked to leave.