By | Abhijit Bhaduri | Founder, Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates
Curiosity matters. Human beings are born curious. The baby’s eyes wander all over even as he/she is a few days old. They are trying to make sense of the new environment that they have entered. This quest continues even as they grow older. They bombard the older people around with questions. Some questions are simple. “Why do the stars twinkle?” <see if your answer matches an astronomer’s>
Curious people are inquisitive
If you clicked on that link, you displayed the first quality of a curious person. They will explore and research any question. They check facts. They will read about subjects even if they do not need to use it. They will be curious to know why. Leonardo da Vinci was as inquisitive about engineering as he was about art. The BBC describes it perfectly. “He wrote and drew on subjects including geology, anatomy (which he studied in order to paint the human form more accurately), flight, gravity and optics, often flitting from subject to subject on a single page, and writing in left-handed mirror script. He ‘invented’ the bicycle, airplane, helicopter, and parachute some 500 years ahead of their time.”
Curious people are open to others ideas
Psychologists define personality in terms of the “Big Five” traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. You can remember it with the acronym OCEAN. Openness to other’s views and ideas is a big part of being curious. Being tolerant of ideas that are totally opposed to your view helps build curiosity. I know of someone who taught himself French and then quit his job as a ticket checker in Railways to become a travel guide in Rajasthan. When I asked him why he learned French, he simply shrugged and said, “Just like that.”
Curious people are comfortable being “distressed”
New ideas are disruptive and this causes “distress”. It shakes up the old order. Columbus had to fight the belief that the earth was flat. Think of the distress we all went through when we learned that Pluto was no longer the 9th planet. We were barely getting used to that idea when we read that there was a 9th planet – but it was not Pluto. Even now when we see a film being made on a subject that challenges our beliefs, some people get so distressed that they kill the person who challenged the belief.
Curious people solve problems creatively
When we come up with new ideas, they experiment and find out if the new idea is indeed correct. When Elon Musk came up with the idea of a reusable rocket, he was ridiculed even by the people he looked up to as role models. He learned all about rockets and after several failed attempts he has finally built a reusable rocket.
Being able to learn about something which does not have an immediate short term payback is a sure sign of a curious person. They read about different subjects, countries, professions, religion and customs even when there is immediate use or benefit from doing so.
In a world where Google has all the answers, humans will need to learn to be creative. Reputation will be more powerful than the certificates and credentials. Already IBM’s Watson is better than human doctors at diagnosing cancer. Being curious will help us keep reinventing ourselves as the future unfolds everyday.
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Read Merck’s model of curiosity <click here>