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How to Cultivate Curiosity

Infants are born curious. They learn about the world around them by checking things out, poking and prodding, and jumping headfirst into whatever it is that piques their interest. The same curiosity that helps them figure out how to be in the world also gets them into trouble, and sometimes hurt. Slowly, they are taught to “follow the rules” and “listen to Mommy and Daddy” (or the teacher), and that curiosity morphs into compliance.

Sure, compliance is great when you want people to work in factories and follow a set of rules, but today’s market is quickly outgrowing the industrial-complex mindset that benefitted from workers who would do what they were told (and no more), yet our penchant for curiosity is still being stifled in school.

So how do you cultivate curiosity when you’ve spent years or decades getting better and better at that one thing (or two things) you REALLY know how to do?

“Think outside the box” is great advice, but what does it really mean? If we’re not used to thinking outside the box, how can we even attempt it?

Ask, “I Wonder . . .”

You’re sitting at your desk trying to find a solution for X problem. Usually, you do a little research to find out what other people are saying about it or doing to solve it. Instead, consider that the answer may not already exist.

Ask, “I wonder how . . .” and allow your mind to wander. How would someone in an entirely different field try to solve this problem? Sometimes, looking to other industries can get you thinking in different ways about how to approach your own circumstances.

Ask, “I wonder if . . .” and think about what would happen if you didn’t solve the problem at all. What if it wasn’t actually a problem? What if your problem was the solution to ANOTHER problem?

Ask, “I wonder when . . .” and relax about the timeline. Imagine a different framework altogether. What would it look like? What would it achieve? How could you incorporate at least some of those elements into your current expectations? What could change?

Ask, “I wonder who . . .” and connect. It’s easier than ever to connect with like-minded or even not-so-like-minded individuals. Who could offer insight that you haven’t yet considered? Again, it might be helpful to look outside your industry.

Next time you feel stuck, stagnant, or just ho-hum, turn your senses outward (and inward) and ask, “I wonder . . .” The path it takes you on will likely be insightful (and wonderful).

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