Be Curious

Mike Mangino

March 1, 2022

Two coworkers having a discussion in the office

I love meeting customers. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. Our customers are incredible at coming up with solutions and workflows to help their companies succeed. It’s exciting to help them use technology to make these processes even more efficient. Still, at times I see things that make me wonder, “What are they thinking?” Sometimes I see steps that make no sense and appear inefficient.. Over my career, the way I react in these situations has evolved. When you look at any process from an outside perspective, you will likely find things that don’t make sense.  Early in my career, I would confidently point out how unproductive  these ideas were. I could quickly come up with obvious ways to improve these workflows. I was shocked when the people I spoke with would get defensive. I was even more surprised when they didn’t immediately take my suggestions. After all, they were obvious!  

As I’ve matured and gained experience, I’ve realized that everybody I work with and every customer I’ve met is smart and cares about their job. While it’s possible there are noticeable improvements to their processes that could be made, it’s more likely that there is complexity lurking beneath the surface that keeps my ideas from being practical. An outsider coming in and pointing these things out doesn’t help. It just makes the outsider look overconfident. 

 Now, when I see changes that look like obvious improvements, I get curious. I ask myself, “What would need to be true for the existing method to be a good solution to the problem at hand?” I often find an unstated but still important goal that this process meets. My curiosity helps me understand why things work the way they do. This approach has two benefits. Not only does it demonstrate some humility to put people at ease, but it also gives the person I’m speaking with the opportunity to explain how smart their solution is. This allows us to work together from a place of shared understanding to solve their problem. Asking questions also moves the conversation from talking about a particular solution to discussing the real problem that needs to be solved. This allows us to be much more creative in the solutions we can consider. 

The impact this approach has on the people around us is hopefully obvious. If you come to me from a place of ignorance and confidently tell me things I know are wrong, it’s difficult for me to believe anything you say. On the other hand, if you show curiosity and seek to understand, it helps me gain confidence that your ideas are well thought out. Every process is easy if you don’t have to worry about the complex details. It’s often a clear grasp of the complexity and messiness that makes good solutions possible. This can only come from gaining a shared understanding of the whole environment.  This understanding also has the added benefit of reducing defensiveness, making it easier to make change happen. So get curious! Ask questions and seek to understand things that don’t make sense.  

Do you have a story about a time when curiosity paid off? We hope you will share it with us on LinkedIn


Mike Mangino

About the Author

Mike Mangino is the Chief Technology Officer for TriumphPay where he leads the development and dissemination of advanced technologies that improve and increase business for our customers and TriumphPay. Prior to joining TriumphPay, Mike was the Chief Technology Officer for HubTran where he was responsible for designing and building software to automate back-office payables for the transportation industry and built and managed a team of engineers including software development, DevOps and customer support.