5. Curiosity (Creative Qualities)

December 16, 2019

Curiosity prepares the brain for learning.

Tip of the day: Ask questions!

If you can arouse a person’s curiosity about something, they are naturally motivated to learn. They will be better prepared to learn things that they would normally consider boring or difficult.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

Curious people not only ask questions but also actively seek out the answers. Without it, Isaac Newton would never have formulated the laws of physics, Alexander Fleming would not have discovered penicillin, and Marie Curie would never have pursued radioactivity research.

What do great teachers do? They personalise the problem to match the student’s specific interests.

When I started primary school, my interests were limited to football and art. I was not a very academic student but my teachers used my interests to introduce me to other subjects.

Football is physics, they said. Art is storytelling. If the blue team score six goals and the red team score two goals, what is the goal difference? Is this medieval art or contemporary art? Which country is hosting the World Cup?

(Mini story: I try and do the same thing in my workplace. Last month, I shared a video created by RedBull with my team. Without even asking, one of our editors Connor, came in later that week with a test video simulating the same editing techniques that RedBull had used in their video. It reminded me just how powerful curiosity can be. )

By the time I started secondary school, I had a lot more interests than just football and art. When I reached my teens, my parents encouraged me to have piano lessons. The first thing you tend to learn on a classical instrument are scales because you need to learn the notes before you can play a tune. It’s also about programming your motor skills, strengthening muscles and developing a sense of tone, speed and rhythm.

The problem was … I was not interested in playing classical piano. I had no desire to know my Mozart from my Beethoven. My piano teacher picked up on this really quickly. He changed out my classical scales book for a jazz scales book. I love improvisation so my curiosity was suddenly piqued! I still play piano today so something clearly worked.

Scientists have yet to determine the long term effects of curiosity. For example, if curiosity is stimulated at the start of the day, will it last all day? Also, why are some people more curious than others?

If you really want to get into the science of it, I read that when curiosity is sparked, it increases activity in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is involved in the creation of memories and also in the brain circuit that is related to rewards and pleasure.

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What that means is the learning experience can be as pleasurable as sweets or money. That makes the outcome of learning a reward in itself and perhaps explains why some people appear more motivated to learn than others.

As the father of a 5 year old and a 2 year old, I am very familiar with the game of “Why?” It can be an exhausting game and the parent usually loses. The way it is played is the child starts with a seemingly harmless question, such as, “Where do horses live?” and then responds to every answer the parent gives with another question, “Why?”

Have you heard of this game? I’m sure you have.

The fact is, kids are super curious and love to ask questions. As we get older, some of us lose that instinct to ask questions.

Do you believe there is such a thing as a dumb question? … Perhaps no question is dumb if it stimulates curiosity.

Hopefully we can agree that curiosity is a creative quality and it’s one that needs to be encouraged in the workplace.

I read a book this year called ‘The Power of Curiosity’ by Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Siggins. It promotes the idea that designers, innovators, scientists and engineers are exceptionally good at asking great open-ended questions and that companies should place a higher value on curiosity.

Companies want to be innovative and in order to do that they need to do several things.

– Recognise and reinforce staff when they ask good questions, challenge current thinking and develop solutions to existing company processes and problems.

– Teach employees the art of asking good questions; Why, What if, and How are powerful idea starters.

– Hatch curiosity in project teams. Curiosity is contagious. Put less curious team members together with high curiosity-minded people and have them work out a solution.

– Diversify your interests.

– Let yourself be amazed at the everyday.

– Draw out and don’t ignore the puzzled look. Ask them what they are thinking about. The immediate response will be a question. Don’t be scared to be challenged.

– Highlight the curious leaders in your midst. Provide a forum for them to share with staff, the thinking process they go through to innovate and explore new ideas.

I know I’m working at my best when I’m curious. I spend just as much time working with teams in other companies as I do with my own. I constantly probe my clients with questions and the ones I get to know well and produce great work for are the ones that are not afraid to be curious. They don’t block or hide away from questions, even if they don’t know the answers.

Video marketing has become a daily part of online communication. A lot of people are using it, however not everyone understands how to do it well and I applaud the people who can admit that but still want to learn and ask questions. I am honest about what I don’t know and so is my team. It’s a much better working environment when you know people’s strengths and weaknesses. Take ego out of the equation too. It only slows down progress.

Today, I got a call from a marketing professional that I recently connected with on LinkedIn. We had never spoken before but she had spotted my online video content and wanted to know my approach to video marketing so she could offer it to her clients. I was thrilled!

Who isn’t trying to pique other people’s curiosity? Isn’t it the reason why we spend so much time producing content? We want to tap into people’s interests and start conversations and ultimately have some kind of impact. I know I do. There doesn’t seem much point twisting arms and forcing people to talk to me and work with me. Where’s the fun in that?

So my final bit is just to say, if you want people to learn about what you do and what your business offers, the answer is arouse curiosity. Give them a reason to want to learn more.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Marshall

Creative Director, Captive North

tom@captivenorth.co.uk