Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What is curiosity?

What is curiosity? Where does it come from? How do you grow it? And, more importantly, how do you grow it in others?

First, curiosity is defined by dictionary.com as
/?ky??ri'?s?ti/ [kyoor-ee-os-i-tee] –noun,plural-ties.
1. the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.
2. a curious, rare, or novel thing.
3. a strange, curious, or interesting quality.
4. Archaic. carefulness; fastidiousness.

If, perhaps, we first consider where it comes from, we could figure out where it goes. There seems to be cultural awareness that acting curios is the realm of the young. Why is that? Is it associated with youth because only the young have it? I don't think so. I think, instead, that the source is WANTING.

The young and youthful WANT to know things they don't already know. They, quite naturally, and just like the rest of us, really dislike that tone used with a petulant child that keeps asking "Why?" However, the young and youthful are able to ignore the tone and go for the answer. We call this curios-ness.

So the answer would seem to be that, in order to grow this skill in ourselves or others, that we should seek to be more youthful. That seems, to me, to be ignorant of the choice that we have as adults to specialize. The best specialists are those who are constantly questioning, learning, growing, and exploring deeply within one particular topic or subject.

So, can you be a generalist and still desire and WANT knowledge? I believe so, however, that's internally sourced motivation, and not generally the subject of this post.

How do you grow folks desire for knowledge, from the outside in? How to instill the "want to" from the outside? This pre-supposes that they're not coming to you asking for your help to get access to these things.

It takes various forms:
  1. Paying direct attention to what's important to them
  2. Asking them what's important to them
  3. Helping them discover what's important to them

and then, facilitating their getting more access, time, or exposure to that "thing", whatever it is.