By cultivating curiosity you can adapt, reinvent yourself and benefit from new and diverse skills.
Our rapidly evolving world requires us to drop conventional mindsets, let go of old rules, learn new skills fast and develop habits that can help us thrive in the new world of work. But where do you begin? It starts with curiosity.
Curiosity helps children be more observant and to think about things and try to figure them out. As we grow, it becomes the driver of intellectual achievement. Being open to new experiences keeps your brain active and alert. Studies show that those who are more curious about a topic tend to learn faster, and that curiosity essentially primes the brain for learning.
When we are in a state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something, we are more open to embracing unfamiliar circumstances, giving us a greater opportunity to experience discovery and delight.
Cultivating curiosity in our adult lives is about maintaining the desire to know more about things – whether it’s about a particular topic, or a more general desire to learn about everything.
We’ve all known people with in-depth knowledge across multiple areas of life and work. Bain & Company Chairman Orit Gadiesh coined the term expert generalist, which she defined as, “Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries and topics.” These are people who are open to new experiences and like to think about things.
Even if you are not naturally curious, there are ways to develop the habit to learn:
1. Keep an open mind
Be willing to listen to other people’s opinions, ideas and arguments about things. This is essential if you want to have a curious mind. Ask questions and be active about searching for information.
Be open to learning and unlearning. Some things you know and believe might be wrong, and you should be prepared to accept this possibility and change your mind.
2. Make lists and ask questions
You are likely to encounter many things each day that you know little about. Whether you listen to news reports, read a book, or hear something new at work, there will be some topics that you may not understand that well. A sure way to dig deeper beneath the surface is asking questions: What is that? Why is it made that way? When was it made? Who invented it? Where does it come from? How does it work? What, why, when, who, where, and how are the best friends of curious people.
You might be tempted to limit your list to only things you think are important. But the most creative people tend to have knowledge that comes from left field. You may be surprised to find which of the things you learn that will turn out to be valuable later.
3. Team up with others who want to learn
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to learn, find one or two others who are also interested in becoming more curious. Meet with them once a week and make it your goal to teach one another something new.
This not only forces you to learn the new information well enough to be able to explain it effectively to someone else, but it can also be fun – and enjoyment makes it that much easier to retain knowledge. If that seems too onerous, you can always use social media to ask questions and share new learning journeys.