When you see plane trails in the sky, do you ever like to imagine where the plane-loads of people are zooming off to? Since I was little I’ve always wondered about them, and now when I ask my own children they give exotic answers like: ‘Bristol’ or ‘Alton Towers’, and other exciting destinations they know.
Curiosity is a wonderful, innate thing. We’re all naturally curious creatures, with children being the real experts. They ask hundreds of questions a day, continuously creating experiences that shape the way their brains develop.
We retain this inquisitiveness into adulthood through an evolutionary trait known as neoteny – the retention of juvenile characteristics. Tom Stafford reasons that our extended capacity for playfulness and curiosity is integral to our ability to learn new things, adapt our thinking, and flourish in changing circumstances.
How very useful, eh? However, as we grow-up our capacity to inquire and wonder diminishes. We become more focused on what we need to know to get by. Our inhibitions and fear of ‘looking silly’ can stop us asking, challenging and trying new things.
Depressingly, this process seems to happen as soon as we enter the school system. Ken Robinson makes an impassioned case that ‘curiosity is the engine of achievement’, driving how we advance as a species, but that this is ‘contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labour and most students have to endure’ – ‘in place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance’. ‘What if…?’ is swiftly replaced with ‘right or wrong.’
But there is another way. Robinson talks about alternative approaches, which are the norm in high-performing educational systems like Finland’s; where an emphasis on flexibility, autonomy, individuality and creativity provides an environment where children can really achieve.
However, when you consider the innate quality of curiosity it’s not actually that ‘alternative’ after all. It makes perfect sense – and these truths about learning hold for all humans, not just the little ones.
We delight in creating programmes that encourage inquisitiveness – posing challenges, using analogies, and always asking ‘what if….?’
How could you encourage curiosity in your world? Here are some ideas from us:
- Grip an audience with a story – build some intrigue and find what is funny and universal;
- Problem solving – invert it: how could we make it worse? You’d be amazed at the solutions it might reveal…
- Creative thinking – start with an image, song or an object, then look for meaning connected to what you’re working on;
- Be inquisitive – great questions are better than statements every time.
If we can help you or your organisation tap into your curiosity via training, coaching or team development events, please drop us a line ……although be prepared for lots of questions!