I have always been curious about curiosity. What does it mean to be curious and how do we measure this attribute? In my research, if an individual is curious, they demonstrate the following behaviors:

  1. Ask questions, even if the questions are assumably ‘dumb’
  2. Open to being proven wrong 
  3. Open to saying ‘I don’t know’
  4. Listen with an intent

I believe most of us demonstrate these behaviors differently. The intensity changes based on our environment. We are born curious and are given the tools to be curious individuals through our lives. If that’s true, what differentiates the leading innovators and what can we learn from them?

In this blog, I will highlight my favorite innovators and one trait that differentiated them. At the end, I will summarize themes that lead to innovations through lifelong curiosity. 

Sir Ken Robinson: As educators begin their journey, one of the rights of passage is Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk ‘Do Schools Creativity’? In his talk, he highlights the need for reforming the education system and focusing on the learner. Sir Ken contracted polio at a young age but went on to thrive at a special-ed school and college. Conventional education worked for him and he flourished. While he flourished, he observed many peers that did not fit. Two focal questions that he had were the lack of importance arts and drama were given and the lack of creativity in the curriculum. Through his career, Sir Ken fought to bring creativity as a central focus of education. 

Sir Ken questioned the status quo, even though he fit well in the status quo. As his peers struggled, he began questioning the relatability to education and how one way did not suit every learner. He marveled through his career fighting to create an education system that advocated for the learner. 

Clayton Christensen: The Christensen Institute is a driving organization in innovation. Clayton Christensen is an economist, business consultant and has led many roles in his career. In education, he observed the trend of blended and personalized online learning and bet on it a decade before they were in practice. In 2007, he founded Christensen Institute and began his research to prove his ideas in disrupting education. Till date, the research that’s emerged from the institute has changed conventional thought and paved the way for a fundamental change in how we teach. 

Clayton Christensen was convinced and he committed to support that conviction. Rising as a business leader, he believed education needed to be disrupted and made the bold choice of doing his own research to prove what he already knew. 

Steve Jobs: Steve Jobs doesn’t need an introduction. He disrupted computers, mobile and technology as a whole. What was Steve Job’s trait that made him an innovator? In Clayton’s book Innovator’s Dilemma, he writes about the pursuit of profit and the downward spiral that follows. Steve Jobs broke the conundrum and proved that his pursuit of products and excellence outbid the money. 

I believe the one trait that made Jobs a stark innovator was that he was okay being different. His chase towards excellence is remarkably different from his competitors. He changed the narrative at Apple by focusing on perfection and while that has had some backlash due to its lack of focus on shipping products and execution, Apple products are consistently in demand. 

The three traits that we discussed were:

  1. Questioning the status quo and asking questions
  2. Conviction and betting on them
  3. Chasing what you believe in and being okay with being different

How can we adapt these in our learning journeys? I extract two common themes that can help build these traits.

First is building awareness. Our innovators demonstrated self awareness, built habits through the awareness that created environments for success.

Second is building a failure muscle. Our innovators had conviction and made big bets. Big bets need a failure muscle and readiness for the lows and not quitting. 

To be a lifelong unlearner, it’s crucial to look within and be comfortable with highs and lows. 

Besides the three innovators included in this blog, there are many. I will include them in my next blogs and highlight their traits and habits. 

Unlearning Thought!

If I asked you, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank your curiosity?