Young children are curious about everything. They have no preconceived notions of fear or failure. There are no limits on how much they need to know about things. Everything is new so they just take it all in and explore how things connect with each other.
At this stage, learning is entirely intrinsically motivated. As we grow we are encouraged to learn specific things receive external motivations to do so. These could be in the form of awards, assessment scores or promotions, for example. We slowly lose the ability or desire to learn things based on our own interests or curiosity.
In a recent podcast interview on The Mentor List musician and social entrepreneur, Cameron Brown, says:
“I think curiosity is one of the most valuable skills that someone can learn to harness the power of – both in business and in life. I think our current education system beats it out of us. We start off as curious beings, “Why does this do that? Why does that do that? What happens when I put this in my mouth? Oh, that’s not very good?” There is an element of child curiosity that (disappears) over time. In school, for example, the person who asks the questions is often seen as annoying by the teacher or by the pupils.”
However, when we do question things around us, we learn much more than we ever imagined. Just think of all the discoveries and innovations that have resulted from man’s desire to explore the Earth and the universe and to find out “What’s out there?”
We can also spark up our curiosity by asking, “Is there a better way to do this?” We don’t have to keep following the same old patterns and procedures. In fact, if we do, we risk stagnation or even becoming redundant. This applies equally to individuals and organisations.
Different ways to reach your goals
Our activities can be divided into those with a specific end-goal in mind and those without. Examples of those with a clear end-goal include:
· Building a house.
· Following a diet or exercise plan.
· Mastering a skill.
· Obtaining a degree.
Activities like these often follow a set pathway with some room for variation but generally without too much deviation from the norm.
At other times, we may have a rough outcome in mind but we are not so fussed about how things get done. These are the times we can harness our curiosity to the greatest effect. We can change our goals and methods as different circumstances arise. The goal could be more about observation and exploration to learn more about something than to create anything specific. The question here could simply be, “What happens if I do this?” For example:
· Tracking migratory animals. “Where do they go?”
· Experimenting with new cooking recipes and ingredients. “What will this taste like?”
· Going backpacking. “Which train will I catch today?”
Choice of approach
There is no right or wrong here. A lot depends on the person and the circumstance. Sometimes we need to follow traditional pathways but at other times we can just open ourselves up and trust our instincts.
It’s quite ok to have a mix of both structured and open-ended goals and approaches in your projects, too.
Curiosity takes courage
To inspire curiosity in your employees, ensure your workplace culture supports them. Encourage them to ask the, “What if?” questions and explore possibilities from left-field and show them that their suggestions will be taken seriously.
Have the courage to harness your own curiosity, too. Yes, there are risks involved whenever we venture into the unknown but don’t allow a fear of failure to prevent you from trying.
Plan to be curious
Many aspects of business have changed dramatically in recent years. Product design and development, for example, used to follow linear processes and only involve those with specific skills and qualifications. Now, processes like this are much more fluid and involve a more diverse mix of ideas and people. People willing to experiment and to ask, “What if?”
Curiosity and innovation need to be given time and space to develop. We can’t just spurt out great ideas on demand, either. We may need to relearn ‘how’ to think creatively. The Mind Tools article Generating New Ideas suggests ways we can change our thinking processes and environments to enable more creative approaches at work.
Cameron Brown’s approach is to block out 2 days in his diary every week for the creation of music, videos, and educational content. He avoids scheduling anything else on those days. You can do this on a personal level, too.
In his article, The Power of Curiosity, writer and thought-leader Scott Young suggests ways we can reignite our curiosity and reminds us of its importance.
“When was the last time you invested time into a project or activity simply because you wanted to see what would happen? If you’re over twenty, I’m guessing that those types of projects and activities make only a small part of your free time. Curiosity is replaced with purpose, and in that replacement, something important has been lost.”
It's not hard to get started. Try setting aside regular time to pursue something just because it interests you. For example, volunteering in your community or learning a new language. Follow your instincts and allow things to take shape around you. It’s ok to do things because they ‘feel right’. You never know where your curiosity may lead you.
Call to action…
Cameron Brown is a musician who has used his insatiable curiosity as the driving force behind his many social enterprise ventures around the world. He believes that each of us has the potential to have a positive impact on the world in some way but to do so, we need to have the courage to back ourselves and to continually ask the question, “What if?”
To learn more of Cameron’s fascinating story be sure to tune in to his podcast interview on The Mentor List. You’ll also hear his tips for unleashing the power of your own curiosity. Just think of what you could achieve if you did!
Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au
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