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The Importance of Curiosity

Curiosity

“Let’s see what curiosity can do.” So begins Honda’s latest advertising campaign Honda Hands (see video above) that has, at the time of typing, reached 6.2m views on YouTube. The video shows the remarkable imagination and curiosity of Honda’s engineers and designers.

pcOther big name companies are also using curiosity as a tool for change. An RSA report commissioned by British Gas Generation Green called “The Power of Curiosity” is bringing children aged 7-14 together who are the nation’s most curious and have the ‘why factor’.

11 of these children will complete a panel who will work with British Gas experts to think of new and innovative ways to address the current climate challenges that we as a country face.

Just by asking “Why?” you can create something special, and possibly change the lives of people all around the world. But curiosity can also be used on a smaller scale, much closer to home, and still have a great impact.

How does this apply to us in our everyday lives? What can curiosity do for us if used in the right way?

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
– Albert Einstein

First of all, in order to effectively use curiosity as a tool in our working and personal lives, it may help to understand more about it.

Curiosity is the very thing that pushes us forward through life, driving us to learn more and develop ourselves. It can be defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. We are born curious – children learn about the world around them by pushing this, testing that, learning from their mistakes along the way.

George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology wrote a paper in 1994 that discussed the “The Psychology of Curiosity”. He summarised in this paper that curiosity was an emotion; a way to fill in any information gaps, or:

“A form of cognitively induced deprivation that arises from the perception of a gap in knowledge or understanding.”

Whilst some of us might be naturally curious, others may be driven by the anticipation of reward. Some may be driven through a desire to learn. Others may be drawn to, as Aristotle put it: “enjoy contemplating the most precise images of things whose sight is painful to us”. This morbid curiosity is often known as “Car Crash Syndrome”, or rubbernecking.

What can be achieved with curiosity?

Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.
– Marie Curie

Some of the greatest athletes, scientists and even astronauts have become what they are because of some level of curiosity. They don’t just fall into their chosen careers, something inside them asked a question that needed to be explored. Can I become the fastest man on Earth? What would happen if we travel to the moon? Where did we all come from?

This desire to find answers, to discover the truth, to be the best is what drives a seemingly ordinary human being to become someone great. There is nothing to stop us all becoming an improved version of ourselves. To start, all we need to do is wonder.

Creativity and Curiosity

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
– Walt Disney

Is there a link between a curious mind a creative mind? A six year study called “Little Bets” conducted with over three thousand executives and five hundred business founders or inventors showed a strong connection between the two.

The study also looked at 25 people who are deemed to be key innovators, exploring in depth their behaviours and characters. They found several key similarities that distinguished those who were innovators and those who were not.

Characteristics of innovators included a need to learn more about those around them, almost as if they were social scientists or anthropologists. They take in their surroundings, the inner workings of society and its needs and therefore are able to develop a new product or service that facilitates what people are looking for. Even if these people don’t realise that they need it.

RSA research showed that those over 55 are the most curious; perhaps this is because retirement allows them the time to wonder. The research found that modern technology is having an impact on our curiosity as it encourages short-term curiosity about a wide variety of topics.

What changes can we make to encourage curiosity? Experts like Sir Ken Robinson would argue that we should be teaching our children, the future generation of creative minds, that the key to success is to just ask why?

Schools should encourage pupils to learn with open outcomes, delve deeper into subjects and give them the freedom to ask questions. Parents can also play a part in this, promoting curiosity at home, teaching children that asking questions is not a negative behaviour. In fact it is the best way to learn more.

Curiosity in the workplace

What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.
– Jacques Cousteau

Curiosity can also be incredibly beneficial in the workplace. By creating environments that foster, stimulate and encourage curiosity, organisations can reap the rewards of bigger and better ideas.

Organisations that are interested in what their people are doing, are more resonant. Show that you are curious to discover their ideas, what they think of the situation and how they could make it better. You might discover that they have found the solution that you’ve been looking for!

Visit our Play page to discover how you can bring a curious, creative mindset to your organisation.

Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.
– Steven Wright

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