#Ostriches #Meerkats #Peacocks and #ProfessionalCuriosity


Its been a week of ostriches, meerkats and peacocks, bear with me and I’ll explain….

Did you know that when ostriches are nesting they dig shallow holes in the ground to use as nests for their eggs? They use their beaks to turn their eggs several times each day. From a distance, an ostrich leaning into a hole to turn an egg looks a bit like it’s burying its head in the sand (but of course if they did that they’d suffocate). But ‘looking down’ is something that happens for us all sometimes as professionals, particularly when times are tough and things can seem overwhelming.

A meerkat by comparison offers an upright bright eyed vision, an animal scanning its horizons, looking at what’s ahead, being curious.

I’ve been thinking about how we nurture professional curiosity recently, which is described as having the capacity and communication skills to explore and understand what is happening rather than making assumptions or accepting things at face value, looking out and up rather than perhaps looking down like an ostrich?

Professional curiosity is something that safeguarding boards have written about extensively as it’s often the element that could have been strengthened when things have gone wrong. This is a particularly helpful overview from Brighton and Hove Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) http://brightonandhovelscb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Professional-Curiosity-Bulletin-FINAL.pdf that I’d recommend, its worth downloading, printing off and sharing with colleagues.

Professional curiosity is a skill that we use every day in our practice in the NHS and beyond, yet I’m not sure if it’s a skill that comes easily to us, particularly if the signals are ‘weak’ https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/the-strength-of-weak-signals Personally as a child I was taught to ‘do as I’m told’ and rewarded for doing just that, and whilst academically we’re encouraged to analyse, compare and contrast situations to challenge ideas, I wonder if it’s easier to do this on paper than to do it in practice? Challenging, exploring and analysing issues face to face with an individual or in teams is an important part of our practice. These skills to effectively dig deeper, to be curious, to seek understanding through a questioning approach, to listen with fascination, (Michael West’s @WestM61 term, do watch his thoughts on leadership
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RXthT32vcY ) need nurturing. Role models who do this well can be hugely influential in helping us develop maturity in our questioning and listening. Who do you know that does this well? What are the skills they have? It was a joy this week to spend time with Nicki Fitzmaurice do follow her at @nickifitz she’s one of my Children’s Nursing heroes, she does professional curiosity and listening with fascination wonderfully!

And that brings me to Peacocks, I love their beautiful feathers as they open up and show off their vibrant colours. Sometimes however we’re reluctant to shine like peacocks for a myriad of complex reasons. At the NHS youth forum residential last weekend I shared the words of Nelson Mandela to encourage young people to shine and share their stories, their views and perspectives, because when we’re brave, take courage, ‘hold our nerve’ and speak up, it gives others permission to shine too, this was the quote I shared with them…

So my challenge, what do you most identify with, the characteristics of an ostrich, a meerkat, a peacock or something else? I’d love to hear your thoughts particularly on professional curiosity, being brave and speaking up, how do you nurture yourself, your teams and achieve these vital skills?

Can social media help us grow professional curiosity? Here’s a link to some blogs on social media written with colleagues that may be of interest http://www.wecommunities.org/blogs/2307

Author: @kathevans2

I’m a Children’s Nurse who is passionate about improving healthcare and life with people who use services. I love getting out in the countryside or to the seaside to promote my mental health and well-being. On a journey to doing 100 marathons (slowly!) & part of team #NHS1000miles (new members always welcome!) I also love charity shopping, cooking and healthy eating too 😉 Sharing thoughts on a range of things that interest me. Comments, challenge, links to further thinking and research are most welcome. Learning and thinking together is always more fun!

4 thoughts on “#Ostriches #Meerkats #Peacocks and #ProfessionalCuriosity”

  1. I think creating a team culture where it’s ok to question promotes professional curiosity.
    Debateing and questioning each other in a safe environment when everyone’s view are important. Encourage us to feel free to think and explore ideas without feeling foolish.
    The humane skill might be the Coordinating , making sure every ostrich’s have time to look up and be heard ,peacocks to also stepp back rest their feathers sometimes and meerkats take stock. Great things happen when we explore together.


  2. This is a great piece kath. I wanted to go one step further and saw a picture of a dog moving its head as though it was listening to you and taking in everything you are saying.. You can speak up, have your say, give people a voice.. Across the spectrum of services it seems we need all to dig deep for that mutual respect. As Churchill said”courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is, also what it takes to sit down and listen. “


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