Curiosity: The engine of innovation
Here's why we should all be that little bit more curious, writes soft skills expert Liggy Webb.
"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." - Albert Einstein.
There's a variation on the proverb that curiosity killed the cat that reads, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction bought it back again!”
Cultivating healthy curiosity can encourage fresh learning and thinking, encourage personal growth and promote new ideas and innovation in a business environment.
Curiosity is a trait of many a famous genius including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. In an article in LIFE Magazine in 1955 entitled "Old Man's Advice to Youth: 'Never Lose a Holy Curiosity” Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity famously said:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day."
In an ever evolving world that is fuelled by innovation, curiosity could indeed be considered a very relevant business imperative.
We can all be grateful for those with an inquisitive mind and an insatiable thirst for discovery, as we have all benefited from some of their findings!
Eleanor Roosevelt once observed that if a mother could ask a Fairy Godmother to endow a child with the most useful gift, that the gift should be curiosity. One of the key components of cultivating a growth mindset is our ability to be curious and open-minded and to question and challenge the way we think.
It helps us to avoid getting rigid in our thinking and leads us into exploring new avenues and possibilities. In an ever evolving world that is fuelled by innovation, curiosity could indeed be considered a very relevant business imperative.
Curiosity is the engine of innovation and curious people have an ongoing, intrinsic interest in both their inner experience and the world around them. Life is never boring for a curious person. Everyone possesses curiosity to some degree although people will differ according to the depth and strength of their curiosity and their willingness to act on it.
What are the benefits of being curious?
Better brain health
Curiosity helps your mind to be more active instead of passive. The mind is a muscle and the more exercise it gets the stronger it will become. Various studies have shown that keeping your brain active and alert can be very helpful as well in later life.
Curiosity is the engine of intellectual achievement; those who are more interested in a topic will learn faster and prime the brain better for learning. Curiosity is associated with high performance in both academic and work settings. There is evidence to suggest that the more we learn, the more we want to learn.
Cultivate positive relationships
Lets face it - we all like to feel as if people are interested in us. It's something we value in our friendships. Curiosity can help us to be more empathetic because we are making an effort to find out about someone else by questioning rather than just taking everything at face value. In turn this helps us to understand and care more deeply.
Curious minds are active minds, and active minds become smart minds Curiosity is associated with intelligence, creativity and problem-solving ability. Curious people create interesting and creative environments for themselves as they seek out new experiences and are open to exploring new ideas and possibilities.
Never get bored
Curious people rarely find life boring because there is always something new to explore and discover. Yoiu can turn any event into something fascinating by sharpening your observation and giving your attention to something you would normally miss.
Walt Disney embraced curiosity as one of the core ingredients of living a fulfilling and exciting life. He said:
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
In any business context it is important that people keep exploring new ways of doing things so that they can keep ahead of the game. Refreshing the way we do things helps us to be more agile and work smarter by letting go of irrelevant habits.
How can we be more curious?
We can all learn to be more curious and here are five top tips to help you:
- Cultivate a growth mindset. Throughout our lives we collect a range of information and build a set of values and beliefs, which are important to us. If we are not careful we can end up with a fixed mindset. Its important to challenge ourselves and be open to new experiences and to always remember that we never stop learning and growing which is the most exciting part of being alive.
- Ask questions. Questions are the keys to unlock a whole trove of exciting treasures. Great open questions to ask are: How, who, what, when, where and the best one of all…why? It is also important to question the answers. Its amazing what you can unearth when you probe a little deeper than the superficial first layer of small talk…
- Feel the fear and be curious anyway. Sometimes we avoid being curious because we fear what we may discover. But there are so many missed opportunities that go by the wayside because we fail to explore further. This in turn can lead us to getting stuck in a rut and then life can become mundane and boring. Being optimistic and approaching every situation with the intention of discovering something useful can help us to live a more fulfilling, exciting and interesting life.
Adopting a curious mindset can indeed bring about a multitude of personal benefits. Also, in a world where agility and innovation is key to gaining a competitive edge curiosity is fast becoming a very relevant business imperative.
In the words of Samuel Johnson “Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”
About the author
Liggy Webb is a best-selling author and the founding director of The Learning Architect, an international consortium of behavioural skills specialists.
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