Curiosity: Why it matters and how we can develop it

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Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why. ~ Bernard Baruch

The moment you think about curiosity, the mind sparks many questions – Why? What if? Who? How? and so on.  Curiosity has always been an important characteristic of a genius, whether it’s Newton, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Richard Feynman or Steve Jobs – they all were curious.

Another good example of curiosity is Steve Job whose curious and creative mind led to good ideas and great products.  And it is essential to keep in mind that only rigorously fostered and defended curiosity turns one good product or idea into a series of subsidiary excellent products such as the invention of “Apple Inc.”, which stunned the computer industry with its software, and programs – Mac, IPod, IPad, and IPhone.

Let’s explore how curiosity fits into and, more importantly, why it matters, in the workplace…

Curiosity keeps you young at heart: We all know children are super curious and have an insatiable craving to understand the world around them. They aren’t afraid to ask questions, and they don’t worry about whether others believe they should already know the answers. But as children grow older, self-consciousness creeps in, along with the desire to appear confident and demonstrate expertise. By the time we’re adults, we often suppress our curiosity.  Don’t let that happen. Remain curious and stay young at heart.

Curiosity keeps your mind active: “Keeping your brain mentally stimulated is a lifelong enterprise” says Professor David Knopman. The mind is just like a muscle which becomes stronger through constant exercise; the mental exercise caused by curiosity makes your mind stronger and stronger. If you just repeat the same tasks and never reach beyond your comfort zone, your mind becomes passive. Studies have shown that dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease settle in more often and earlier when people are not as mentally active.

Curiosity keeps you attentive to new ideas: A creative mind is always curious about several thoughts and ideas that cross over.  Imagine! A thought crosses your mind and will soon be recognised as an idea, but without curiosity, the ideas may pass right in front of you; you miss them because your mind is not prepared to recognise them. Just think, how many great ideas may have lost due to a lack of curiosity?

Curiosity keeps you learning:  A good sense of curiosity keeps you learning. You might want to know how to make something or you want to learn some new things – simply Google it, learn and act on your curiosity. Stay curious and keep learning.

Curiosity opens up possibilities: By being curious you will be able to see new worlds and possibilities which are normally hidden behind the surface of normal life.  We have chances to expand our interests, research has found, and we not only remain curious but also become more confident about what we can accomplish and more successful at work. It takes a curious mind to look beneath the surface and discover these new worlds and possibilities.

Curiosity brings excitement into your life: The life of curious people is far from boring. It’s neither dull nor routine. There are always new things that attract their attention; there are always new ‘toys’ to play with. Instead of being bored, curious people have an adventurous life.

Now, knowing the importance of curiosity, here are some tips to develop it:

Nobel-prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman noted, “Everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” That is the kind of curiosity we need to develop in the workplace for greater collaboration and to innovate new ideas and inventions.

Be open-minded in the workplace!  A closed mind has no room for new knowledge. It is like a cup already full – you cannot add more liquid to the cup, or new ideas to the mind. Therefore, it becomes very important to have an open mind towards everything that is new in your life, be it a question, a task or any other situation you are facing. Being selective will only decrease your curiosity as you start to separate something into “boring” and “interesting”, which means that you might lose 50% of the opportunities or challenges.

The art of questioning!

It’s great to ask questions, but do not forget you are at the workplace!  Make sure your questions are appropriate and professional; smart employees satisfy their curiosity through finding answers beforehand and then diving into smart questioning during a meeting.  Ask questions until you lead the conversation to the bigger picture and the results will reflect your learning skills to the employer.  The benefit of asking questions is you are engaged rather than unaware.  Do you think Albert Einstein became so famous because of his extraordinary ability to study what his teachers taught him? No, definitely not! It was rather his aspiration to question things and to come up with own ideas that allowed him to develop his special theory of relativity.  So don’t hesitate, keep asking questions until you reach a conclusion.

Be passionate!

To have passion in your job search can be a powerful tool. Employers want to see candidates who are passionate about moving forward in their career. If you can find different ways to stay hungry for knowledge and continue to be a lifelong learner, you will find your career to be much more rewarding.  Passion allows you to generate interest in certain topics and set up challenges to explore them!

Stop being monotonous and make changes!

When you are monotonous at work and bring no change into your daily routine, you tend to invite boredom into your life.  So instead of having fixed routines, you could add some variety to your life. It doesn´t have to be some major change to your daily routine; you could, for instance, begin by brushing your teeth with the opposite hand or exploring a new route to your workplace. Inform yourself about new trends, read different books from other industries or learn a new language. Whatever you do, be sure to add variety to your lifestyle and make it challenging.  Whenever you label something as boring, you close one more door of possibilities.

Travel around the world!

Travelling creates curiosity – right from neighbouring countries to nearby cities, or getting into a bootcamp or onto a field trip to different places in the world.  Exploring new places makes you curious to know more about the place and people living out there.  Travel enriches your curiosity into knowledge; you will gain knowledge which cannot be learned from books or any institution.

Learning is fun!

If you are curious then learning is a great fun.  A neurological study has shown that curiosity makes our brains more receptive for learning, and that as we learn, we enjoy the sensation of learning.  Cultivating the learning requirement can make people happier from their training and multiply the outcome beyond our imagination.  So look at life through the glasses of fun and excitement and enjoy the learning process.

Diverse reading!

Sometimes you need to break the barrier!  You tend to spend time on one area and one topic of interest, while the world has lots of other topics.  Diverse reading, such as picking up a magazine or choosing books about diverse topics to include new learning about a different subject, helps create a spark and curiosity in the brain. So, don’t stop and allow your mind to be filled with the excitement of a new world.

So, let’s invite curiosity in our workplaces and keep our senses open to the unexpected. Do share your thoughts on curiosity with us at editor@theyoungvision.com