Curiosity is a Must-have Skill

Jul 4, 2018 · 5 min read

Curiosity drove us to discover the wonders of the world around us. It is at the heart of the human endeavor.

As Abraham Flexner wrote — “Curiosity is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking. It goes back to Galileo, Bacon, and to Sir Isaac Newton, and it must be absolutely unhampered.”

From poetry (Henry Miller observed: “Perhaps it is curiosity — about anything and everything — that made me the writer I am.”) to advertising (Leo Burnett said: “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”) to science (Marie Curie was quoted: “If I see anything vital around me, it is precisely that spirit of adventure, which seems indestructible and is akin to curiosity,” and Brian Cox put curiosity at the heart of science), from a global scale (Isaac Asimov proclaimed: “To make discoveries, you have to be curious about why the universe is the way it is.”) to personal achievement (“We both certainly share a curiosity about the world,” said Warren Buffett about himself and Bill Gates).

Richard Feynman looked at discoveries throughout the whole history of science and recognized that “most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.”

“As knowledge increases wonder deepens” (Charles Morgan)

In this world of unlimited availability of information, where all the knowledge of the world is a click away, the drive to explore it and expand it is a skill in and of itself. A skill with a growing demand.

Fast Future’s Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington and Rohit Talwar, reviewing research from recent years about employment in the coming years, concluded that “there are new skills we need to think about acquiring now to equip us for the world of work in the future. A new set of survival skills for the 21st century will include curiosity.”

Curious people do better, in all aspects of life.

“Curiosity is the engine of achievement,” says education guru Sir Ken Robinson in his hit TED talk. He adds, “creativity is one of the hallmarks of human intelligence and people who come up with fresh ideas are endlessly curious.” Indeed, according to psychologist Sophie von Stumm, “the hungry mind is the single best predictor of educational achievement.”

The creative Jim Coudal stresses the importance of curiosity by saying: “Our number one value isn’t in any of the skills we have. It’s that we’re essentially curious.”

John Cleese, in a famous lecture about creativity, quotes the psychologist Donald MacKinnon who conducted research on creativity at Berkeley in the 70s. MacKinnon describes it as “an ability to play and even to be childlike. In this state people are able to explore and discover, even though there may not be any immediate practical purpose to their play. Play for its own sake.”

Seth Godin, in his manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams”, puts the blame on us when a student “lacks determination and interest”. According to him, it is our duty, as educators, to spark that interest in them. “School, then, needs not to deliver information so much as to sell kids on wanting to find it.” Since schools might not be doing such a great job at that (it is not their job definition), Smart Spin answers that call. As Godin says — “When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless.”

Ian Leslie, the author of “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on it”, quotes educational psychologist Daniel Willingham with a simple economy: ”the curious kids get more return from the same effort than kids with a lower base of knowledge. That makes learning more satisfying for them, which in turn feeds their curiosity.” He points out that “the most reliable predictor of educational achievement is a hungry mind,” and that “The truly curious will be increasingly in demand… Twenty-first-century economies are rewarding those with an unquenchable desire to learn, question and solve — and punishing those who don’t.” Speaking of economic rewards, Leslie mentions such inquisitive individuals such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, as well as Steve Jobs — “What made him exceptional, other than his will to succeed, was his curiosity. He was interested in everything: the Bauhaus design movement, eastern philosophy, the history of technology. He put all this into the creation of Apple.”

Curiosity is a form of intrinsic motivation. In psychology, intrinsic motivation distinguishes between internal and external rewards. In “Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior With Concept Maps,” the authors offer this definition: “Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.”​

Youth development expert Reed Larson reports that “decades of scientific research shows that intrinsic motivation is a powerful “engine” of learning and positive development.” Educator and best-selling author Thomas Armstrong identifies the importance of nurturing intrinsic motivation — “From the standpoint of education, genius means essentially ‘giving birth to the joy in learning.’ I’d like to suggest that this is the central task of all educators. It is the genius of the student that is the driving force behind all learning. Before educators take on any of the other important issues in learning, they must first have a thorough understanding of what lies at the core of each student’s intrinsic motivation to learn, and that motivation originates in each student’s genius.“

Children are born eager to learn. Everything is a wonder to them. “At no time in life is curiosity more powerful than in early childhood,” determines Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Research Professor of Child Psychiatry.

Let’s help our kids, the citizens of tomorrow, maintain their curiosity. “Helping children learn to satisfy curiosity through exploration is one of the best skills you’ll ever nurture.” writes Karen Stephens, director of Illinois State University Child Care Center and instructor in child development for the ISU Family and Consumer Sciences Department.

That is Smart Spin’s mission. Join us.


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The greatest adventure in the world… is learning about it.

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