Curiosity conversations

If you are looking for a book to read over the summer, here’s one that I recommend.

Brian Grazer, the Hollywood movie producer of Splash and Apollo 13, has been having ‘curiosity conversations’ for 35 years, where he talks to experts from a wide variety of fields, simply because he is curious. His book, “A Curious Mind: the Secret to a Bigger Life” (2015), is packed full of anecdotes and advice. It is a delightful book to read, and useful too.

Grazer’s point is that everyone has a story. He offers no ulterior motive for having these conversations other than to keep learning and on occasion has benefited from the conversation in unexpected ways.

  • He had planned to film a movie in a dodgy part of Central America. However he cancelled the entire production following a curiosity conversation with Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State in the first George W Bush Administration. Her view of security matters differed significantly from the film studio executives and he trusted her view of the world over theirs, as she had only recently stepped down from her role heading up US national security.
  • His curiosity conversation with the artist Jeff Koons led, several years later, to Koons designing the cover of Grazer’s book. The artist has neatly captured Grazer’s trademark hairstyle, which is gelled up straight.

Connecting with others

Grazer recognizes that some people are easier to engage with than others. While he found Barak Obama and Diana, Princess of Wales both easy to converse with, Fidel Castro proved to be someone who did all the talking; in Castro’s case, Grazer sat and listened … for hours on end.

You don’t know in advance which conversations will perform, and which won’t. You just keep doing them – you invest a little bit of effort across a wide range of time, space, and people, confident that it is the right thing to do.

The power of questions

Questions spark interesting ideas. The questions build collaborative relationships. The questions create all kinds of connections – connections among unlikely topics, among unlikely collaborators. And the interesting ideas, the collaborative relationships, and the web of connections work together to build trust.

You can also find him talking about his curiosity conversations on YouTube.

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