If you've been curious where Woody has been, customer experience and innovation expert Woody Bendle is back on Brainzooming with part 1 of a two-part series. In this introduction, Woody touches on the importance of curiosity for innovation and shares five questions to ignite your innovative curiosity. In part two, Woody applies those questions to a real-life innovation example. Here's Woody:

woody-bendleFive Questions to Ignite Your Innovative Curiosity by Woody Bendle

Curiosity is something we are all born with – yes, all of us.  We all likely have some general understanding about what curiosity is; but if you’re like most, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time actually thinking about curiosity.

The problem however is that I think we actually should be devoting a lot more time to thinking about and developing our curiosity for at least two fundamental reasons:

  1. Curiosity is the foundational catalyst for innovation, and
  2. Our future is dependent upon innovation 

Those seem like pretty good reasons to me.

I’m betting you’re curious…

Of course you are! Don’t be modest! You are reading this article because you are curious.  In all likelihood, you’re a little more curious than the average bear!  And we need more people like you!  Why?

Because curiosity has been an integral factor in human advancement since the first Neanderthal stumbled across fire 300,000-400,000 years ago and subsequently invented barbeque, hot tubs and central heating...

OK, maybe it didn’t quite happen exactly like that. But it is safe to say that we wouldn’t have any of the incredible things we have today if it wasn’t for curiosity!  So much of what we take for granted all around us each and every day can be attributed to someone’s curiosity:

  • Do you think we’d have safe electrical lighting and smart grids today without curiosity?
  • Do you think we’d have airplanes and radar if it wasn’t for curiosity?
  • Do you think we’d have penicillin or x-rays if it wasn’t for curiosity?
  • What about Velcro or Platform Sneakers or Fried Butter or Camouflage Snuggies!

Do you really think we’d have any of these without curiosity?  Nope! No way! Not a chance! So given that we have all of these wonderful amazing things because of curiosity, why don’t we as a society, spend more time devoted to understanding, cultivating and refining our curiosity?  What a curious question…

Let me take a moment to underscore that curiosity in-and-of-itself isn’t sufficient.  Curiosity without awareness, perception and the ability to learn and adapt can be detrimental to one’s own existence.  In fact, curious and stupid is a pretty bad combination – and the Darwin Awards pay homage to this.

So what is curiosity?

Curiosity has been a topic of rigorous philosophical debate and study for decades (if not centuries).  And, if you want to get your inner-geek on, the literature surrounding curiosity is actually pretty fascinating.  Just go to http://scholar.google.com and type in ‘curiosity’ and you’ll have a ball!  But, to save you some time, let me give you my take on curiosity:

Curiosity is the motivating drive that stems from, and serves the need of perpetuation.  

In other words, we all instinctually want to survive and thrive at some level.  Curiosity is the internal mechanism that nudges each of us towards seeking out ways to stay safe from harm, as well as seeking out ways to develop and grow.  By figuring out how to stay safe as well as improving our relative state of being, we are able to perpetuate our, our offspring’s and our society’s existence.

Let’s ignite innovative curiosity!

There is no shortage of advice out there (both good and bad) for developing one’s own curiosity and creativity.  The bottom line however, if you want to develop and refine your curiosity and creativity, is this:

  • Keep an open (perceptive) mind
  • Continually ask a lot of questions
  • Be persistent (and thorough) in your pursuit of potential answers

I know, this seems pretty straight forward, intuitive and simplistic – sort of like, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat better and exercise (duh!) – but developing and refining your curiosity is actually similar to losing weight – it requires you to work at it.

5 Questions to Ignite Your Innovative Curiosity

To help you out, here are five questions I try to regularly ask myself in as many situations as possible.

  1. What am I (or not) seeing that is new or different?
  2. Where am I (or not) seeing it?
  3. When am I (or not) seeing it?
  4. Why am I (or not) seeing it?
  5. Why am I not seeing more of it?

This isn’t by any means the definitive list of questions for developing curiosity.  But, if you put these five questions somewhere where you will see them often, over time, your mind will begin to naturally ask these (and many more) questions.  You will become more curious!

Now let’s get innovating! Woody Bendle


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