The traditional education system rarely encourages random curiosity. Teacher’s fear, what if the focus on subjects wither off. Rote learning was encouraged in many schools earlier. Now the teaching methodologies are changing for the better. Just imagine the possibilities, if children start asking good questions, teacher’s have to come better prepared and quality of education will improve drastically. Off late curiosity is being frowned upon, even in society. If asking questions become a taboo, then solutions to problems will not emerge. It will ensure status quo and powers to be would be happy in their false glories, as no one dares to show the mirror yet. Many homes have a similar environment and guess what. ‘Prosperity’ and ‘happiness’ maintain a good distance in such circumstances.
Excellent entrepreneurs do the exact opposite of what is mentioned above. They encourage questions/free thinking and try to understand the issues rather than brushing the dust under the carpet. They encourage divergent thinking and learning for self as well as employees. But why? What do they know that others don’t?
What does random curiosity achieve?
Random curiosity forms different mental models in the brain. An entrepreneur has to manage unique situations and thinking on the feet is extremely important. Fast decisions have to be made and emotions have to be managed as well. One should be an excellent negotiator and at the same time be able to take take tough business calls.
The entrepreneur knows that exploring good questions may lead to insights, which one cannot find in a book or movie. Similarly exploring and understanding the workings of a machine or business may find unusual applicability in a different field later on in life. S/he has everything to gain by encouraging the learning culture in the organization as one alone cannot think about all the ideas. Ideas have to be generated by each and every employee and they need to have a buy-in for roboust implementation.
Numerous examples are out there that a top down approach is as good as the leader of the organization. If the leader falters, it soon becomes a disaster. A safer and better approach is getting the curious involved by entrusting meaningful responsibilities. Else the curious lot just switch to better opportunities leaving everyone confused. It also entails rewarding them adequately for the efforts of going that extra mile and contributing over and above their job description.
How to be randomly curious?
The habit of being randomly curious starts from an early age. I read about Israeli mothers encouraging tiny tots to ask better questions in school. Everyday after school they would ask the kid ‘ Did you ask a good question today?’ rather than asking ‘ How was the day?’ However, that does not mean that the habit cannot be cultivated later on in life.
One should try to understand the working of anything that seems intriguing. They can be as varied as understanding the business model of cash surplus organizations, best team cultures, organization ability of an Ant colony, a historical event, etc.
The internet is a wonderful tool, which can be leveraged to understand the workings of lot of things. A google search is just a few clicks away. The world is indeed a small place today. However, it also leads to undesired clutter. A great skill to have at this day and age is to identify and focus on what matters for your purpose and interest. It does not mean sticking to only one area of study/source and ignoring others.
Wide reading is a great way to learn from the experiences of others. It saves ages and eons of efforts, if one is aware of what not to do. By reading, I mean fiction as well as non-fiction readings. A good fiction book may teach a lot about human behavior and workings of the society. While non-fiction will reflect on facts and possibilities. Relying on only one source of information is like trying to read a book on flying and hoping for a pilot’s license. A single source is not effective, as it usually does not tell the entire story. One tends to miss out on different perspectives. Hence, broaden your reading horizon. Here are couple of great sources by Derek Sivers and Nate Liason.
Writing learnings/ideas down does wonders to tackling the subject by it’s horns. It helps one to shift the learnings from short term to long term memory. Summarize in your own words so as to make a 10 year old understand. Maintain a personal diary. Notion and Evernote can be a great way to start jotting down your thoughts. This exercise helps build strong mental models for future reference.
Experiencing and doing complex things will change you like nothing else will. Get your hands dirty but also enjoy the process. The insights gleaned out of experiences are worth sharing and implementing. Had Arnold Schwarzenegger not escaped from the Austrian army, he probably would not have realized his and the dreams of many others. However, doing things without being mindful of the learnings will not serve you well and mistakes may be repeated later on. One should not hesitate working in different industries and verticals, as the perspectives thus gained are unique.
Observing and reflecting are key processes of internalizing learnings. They often lead to unique insights, which are not mentioned in the public domain. The exercise creates new neural pathways and connections, which help in arriving at ‘out of the box‘ solutions to unique problems. Be mindful of the learning along the way and keep them handy.
It may take a lifetime of curious understanding and questioning to arrive at one ‘holy grail‘ insight, but that should not demotivate true seekers. As they would remain curious, no matter what.
Encourage the curious mind at work too as you would for your own child and then sit back to watch the organization grow by leaps and bounds.
As Steve Jobs once said – ‘STAY HUNGRY, STAY FOOLISH‘.