Sep 1, 2023
Introduction: Costas Andriopoulos is Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Bayes Business School (City University of London) He is founder of Bayes X, the Cnentre for Innovation and Disruption. He is also the Director of Avyssos Advisors Ltd. an Innovation management consultancy.
Costas was born in Athens, Greece. He was educated in Greece and the UK & prior to joining Bayes Business School, City University of London in 2014, he held posts at Cardiff, Strathclyde, Aberdeen and Brunel universities.
Costas researched New Product Design Consultancies and tech companies in Silicon Valley and was a visiting professor at Said Business School (University of Oxford)
Costas is also an author and his book, Purposeful Curiosity is the subject of this podcast.
Costas now lives in West London with his wife and daughter.
Podcast episode Summary: In this episode Costas shares his Curiosity Journey and the work he undertook to understand what it takes to employ Curiosity in a meaningful fashion. We discuss what it takes to be purposeful, the distractions we must refuse, and the permission needed to nurture the “Itch” within us all to follow our passions and execute our dreams. As Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think again shares, Costas’s book “Nails the difference between idle curiosity and a productive drive to discover”.
Points made throughout the Episode:
o What more can you say about you the person? Costas shares that since we was a child he was a very curious person. He took things apart and his friend was his screw driver. He is very grateful that his parents encouraged this fascination with how things worked, with his curiosity as a child. This same curiosity has taken him to different parts of the world to study and work and by way of it he has met incredibly interesting people.
o When you show interest in what others do it leads you to some very interesting answers.
o Costas wanted to become an Architect. Whilst his parents at that time discouraged that path it is not surprising to Costas that his PhD and research focuses on Creative & Innovative organisations, some of whom were design studios and others of whom where Architectural firms. There is something we are passionate about, sometimes we are steered away from pursuing these passions but if you like something so much it will always come back.
o Costas encourages people to do something about which you are passionate and good. We can follow many topics and we need to understand these topics. Costas became curious about Curiosity and he wanted to nurture that passion and understand what it takes to pursue curiosity purposefully.
o Because Costas knows Creativity, Innovation and Curiosity are closely linked or brothers he found researching Curiosity to be within his gift.
o He makes the point that if he wanted to research Rockets he would find it very difficult because he wasn’t very good at physics or related disciplines and most probably he would not be interested in any case.
o We have to care about something, we have to be passionate and we have to understand the subject to pursue purposeful curiosity.
o Notwithstanding the fact that Costas has studied Innovation and Creativity when he first mentioned his interest in studying Curiosity everyone he spoke with thought he was crazy.
o The external voices were really projecting their fears onto Costas about the potential pitfalls and opportunity cost of his project. When we embark on something new, and Curiosity is a new field for Costas, people are going to project their fears.
o People who surround us normally care for us. They want to protect us from failing and still if we are passionate about something we have to learn to silence these external voices to follow our path.
o Costas is not encouraging blind faith or reckless pursuits he is taking about projects where you prepare and surround yourself with professionals or people who know something about what you are trying to achieve.
o To illustrate his point Costas tells us about his new interest in Kite Surfing and how he approached becoming skilful when initially it seemed daunting. In the same way as before external voices tried to dissuade him. He was told of all of the dangers associated with Kite surfing and as before he noticed people were simply projecting their fears.
o Costas chose a good instructor, he went online to read up as much as he could about safety, essentially saying he did not go to his first lesson unprepared.
o Being curious about something means you go to your first meeting being prepared.
o Costas’s motivation to write his book was to research Curiosity and it became his purpose.
o Purposeful Curiosity is about translating our curiosity into something. We can be curious about stuff, satiate our curiosity somewhat and move to the next thing. Doing this means nothing happens, no processes get better or the community doesn’t benefit etc. It is a bit of a selfish act.
o Costas noticed he was doing this, his colleagues and others were too.
o He was curious to understand if there were people who followed their curiosity and executed change, translating their curiosity into a service, a product or a start-up
o For his research Costas interviewed 60 people from different walks of life, different geographical locations from Japan to California.
o What Costas noticed was that the people he studied stayed with their curiosity longer. Too often when we are curious and something doesn’t work out we drop it. What Costas found was the opposite with those who were Curious and executed. If something did not work out they became even more curious.
o Costas describes how when he began his research and project he got so curious his world disappeared and it became like a movement to him.
o Costas was curious to know how we can help people be more curious, to execute their curiosity and to improve life, communities, solve problems and provide solutions to life questions.
o It was important for Costas to address the subject of fear in his book Purposeful Curiosity. He admits himself that when he starts something new he feels fear. He is not fearless. Instead however he uses his curiosity to overcome his fears.
o When he started Kite Surfing in the Summer of 22, he saw Kite Surfers jumping 5 or 6 metres and he was afraid. By being curious he tried to figure out what could go wrong. He developed a list of mitigating solutions. He used his curiosity and questions about his fear to help him move closer to his goals. Fear doesn’t necessarily go away but you can make it become second nature to you.
o Costas uses his failure to learn, to ask for feedback and to course correct.
o Costas wrote this book during Covid. It was bemusing to Costas that he chose to do something so creative in isolation because he is a person who enjoys company.
o Costas explains making fear second nature by saying that the more we do something the more it becomes like skin. We get used to it. He uses the example of writhing his own book to explain this phenomenon.
o Writing a book is a big endeavour. Writing 300 pages in a year and a half takes commitment, it takes time and over time writing & pursuing this project of writing a book about Purposeful Curiosity became second nature to him.
o Costas admits that writing is not something that comes naturally to him, in fact it makes him a bit uncomfortable, because for Costas it is about disseminating his thoughts onto paper for others to read.
o You have to be comfortable with discomfort.
o When Costas started writing he was very uncomfortable, it was taking him more time than he thought it should, he was stressed and he was beset with his inner critic asking “will he get it?” but curiously the more Costas wrote, the more time he took he started to get comfortable with his discomfort to the point that he began to enjoy it.
o Costas never felt paralysed by his fear, he felt energised. He studiously worked to bring down his fear by doing more research, reading books that were close to the kind of book he wanted to write, talking to people etc.
o To execute Curiosity you have to first give yourself permission to go on the Journey. Do not wait for others to give you the green light.
o Curiosity leads us to be relevant.
o All of us have to be lifelong learners.
o Costas encourages us to figure out “our itch” to take ownership for our particular Curiosity Project. If you have a passion, a curiosity, open a folder, take notes, do your research, have boundaries, don’t be seduced by the internet, there are a lot of smart resources like Udemy etc give yourself permission become a bit of an expert.
o Costas also notes that when you are starting out, following your itch and learning about your passion or topic you need to find a Tribe.
o Ask “who is your tribe” go to meetings, participate & talk to discover.
o Don’t be afraid. The important thing is to continue learning, to continue asking questions to surround yourself with a Tribe, people who are passionate, different, open and open to being surprised and can add meaning to your project.
o Costas expands on his acronym Curiosity which neatly describes the qualities of a good team and in this case Tribe.
o Assembling a dream Tribe/Team is about hiring curious people. People who are Collaborative, Unabashedly passionate about the subject, Resilient, Iconoclastic, Open to outside interests, Urgent and Surprise seeking.
o What Costas admires in his field and in his career or on his teams are the people who bring you questions. They are not waiting for him to solve for everything.
o Costas mentions the wise adage “never meet your heroes or heroines” He did not meet this problem when he was interviewing his 60 subjects or innovators for his research. He was surprised by their willingness to share things. People confided in him which for Costas meant that there was trust. Costas was struck by their degree of interest in his subject, their willingness to ask him questions and to take notes. There was a real dialogue with naturally humble subjects.
o Curiosity means you have to be able to actively listen. If your tribe tells you, you are not ready you have to be prepared to listen.
o Curious people can listen, they are present and they are humble.
o No matter his interviewees were very successful, often monetarily they were also humble. There is always something further to learn. There is always another itch they want to scratch and they know this.
o Costas reminds us that it is important to listen and to digest the information we are getting. We have to be patient & willing to take our time if we want to reach our goals.
o We need to be willing to do the hard work. We live in an era where there is instant gratification, from food, to education to romance. Everything is on our Smart Phone and curiously then people complain. The book is not a pill, serving instant gratification & guaranteeing results. It is a guide that invites the reader to put in the hard work, to embrace discomfort and to learn. This work requires commitment, time, enthusiasm and effort.
o One of the nuggets Costas shares in his nine essential and practical lessons is the idea of “disciplined serendipity” which he explains using his own example of script writing.
o When he started his pursuit of script writing he went through the exact process he illuminates in his book. He met fear, his imposter syndrome and all the many ways his mind told him he should not pursue this path-he knew nobody in this field- he did not have a ready-made tribe, he knew he was not professionally trained etc.. Still he prevailed. He put the lessons from his own book to work.
o Costas put all of his concerns to one side and he started. He bought a notebook and he started to write. He soon got into “flow” a state of immersion where his world fell away. In flow you forget about time and place. It happened to him when he was researching and again when he started to write.
o Disciplined Serendipity means we can move from one thing to something else and by applying the nine lessons from his book we can become better.
o Costas has now found his tribe, he has identified an award winning script writer at the University where he works and he is getting the support he requires. In a way Costas developed his own curriculum & applied the lessons from his own book to become better at script writing.
o Curiously for Costas script writing has helped him in his teaching. In his classes he is helping budding entrepreneurs start their own businesses. An important feature of start-ups is Storytelling. He uses the art of storytelling from script writing in his lectures to help his students tell better and more compelling stories.
o Nothing is wasted. The time and effort Costas has spent learning how to become a better script writer has translated in him using this learning in his lectures. Many people refuse to start because they fear wasting time, using resources etc. Nothing is wasted you simply have to think about repurposing your efforts, combining your skills and knowledge. There is always something to be gained from curiosity projects
o In response to the question “who did you become by writing this book” Costas replied “his younger self” the 10 year old boy living in Athens with his friend the screwdriver.
o The element of surprise that accompanies us on Curiosity Journeys is very fulfilling, especially as we live in an era where we do not know how stuff works.
o Whilst I promised Costas that I would use his book to discover my next personal & professional itch he told me that he believes I already have it, coaching and doing this podcast. He is partially correct and I know there is more. His book is worth a reread.
Resources shared across this podcast & ways to get in touch
1. Costas Andriopoulos is the author of Purposeful Curiosity, How asking the right questions can change your life.