Photo by Chris Burgett / Unsplash

Wow versus Wonder

thoughts Dec 20, 2023

"Wow" and "wonder" are two very distinct experiences that often get used interchangeably but they land on us in different ways. While "wow" is a sudden burst of surprise and amazement, "wonder" is an ongoing state of curiosity and awe.

WOW!! We've all felt it. It has the power to seize our attention, spark innovation, and drive us towards something. However, as a leader, relying solely on wow moments might be shortsighted. They captivate momentarily but might lack a lasting impact. Hedonistic adaptation is the human tendency to return to former levels of happiness despite major positive events or changes and we see that with "wow". Typically cited things that represent this effect are drug use and bonuses or raises.

On the other hand, "wonder" has a more enduring force. It fosters a sense of curiosity and wonderment that can create exploration and growth in us. Leaders leveraging wonder cultivate creativity and fuel innovation in much more impactful ways. Things in this category tend to leave an impression on us and we find ourselves mentally revisiting them as we move forward. Experiences with nature or others as well as exposure to the profound are typically in this category.

Rather than viewing wow and wonder as opposites though, I like to think about their fusion as it can create a more transformative experience. Where can I find the "yes and ..." that hits both of these? In essence, the fusion of "wow" and "wonder" offers a transformative approach for leaders. By combining fleeting moments of awe with a continuous state of curiosity, organizations can cultivate experiences that both captivate and sustain interest.

I'm still trying to figure out how to best balance wow and wonder to create environments that surprise, inspire ongoing curiosity, and unlock our people's full potential. What has been an experience for you that combined these?