Emerald Group Publishing Innovation Manager Kat Palmer explains how curiosity and constraints form the catalyst for change, with a little help from Albert Einstein and Walt Disney.

The evolution of curiousness

Our curiosity forces us to ask questions and solve problems, leading to career progression and wisdom. Evolutionary theory has found that this curiosity requires the retention of childlike characteristics, which in turn gives us the capacity to learn. Curiosity, creative problem solving and learning from experience are essential workplace skills.

I form part of the innovation team at Emerald Group Publishing along with Bec Evans(co-founder of Write Track) and Andy Ireland, and it is our job to provide a safe space to explore our company’s curiosities. One way we do this is through a process called Spark Labs.

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

Acting on curiosity

Spark Labs allows for rapid prototyping and testing under the ultimate constraints; no time, no money, and a maximum of 8 participants. It is a concept we developed from Google Ventures: The Design Sprint.

Offering a dedicated innovation space, with clear rules on the removal of judgement, hierarchy and sitting down, a Spark Lab gives freedom to explore problems which are ‘stuck’ without political pressures or the demands of our ‘real jobs’ getting in the way.

Prototyping on paper
A case study
The Case study method is a way of teaching that involves students working together to find solutions to genuine business problems. Case studies are predominantly paper-based and static. A colleague wanted to explore what the case study of the future would look like, they asked us to help them investigate by running tests with students.
A colleague came to us and asked for help to define and test what a live case study could look like for Emerald. We quickly recruited seven curious colleagues to join us, and in just 5 working days transformed user insights into a prototype app of a live case study, took it to universities and tested it with users.
With deliberately limited time and budget we experimented in a safe space, and discovered real insights which have impacted the development of live case studies for Emerald.

Curiosity keeps us moving

Why do people get involved? People first join a Spark! Lab because they’re curious. They keep coming back because we are enabling their curiosity to drive actions fast; we unstick problems, and get people to ‘the next step’… and, it’s actually really fun!

Walt Disney summarised the importance of curiosity in a way which I believe we should all aspire to:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Ask more questions

I offer you a challenge: Ask more questions. We are curious so we can learn, experiment, fail and improve, in work and in life. We all have opportunities to explore new paths, but in order to do so we need more questions to be asked, and more curious people to step forward to answer them.

Originally published at

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.