Want To Be Innovative - Nurture Your Curiosity

10/06/2016 09:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Curiosity is the strong desire to know or learn something. Often we associate the word with children who display a strong and natural tendency to be curious. That's why they inundate us with questions asking How? What? When? and Why?

Society often tells us being inquisitive may get you into trouble. It's what the proverb "curiosity killed the cat" implies. Yet curiosity is a valuable commodity and one that needs to be appreciated as it is vital; particularly for entrepreneurs as:

  • Curiosity is a way to challenge the status quo by pushing us out of our comfort zone.
  • Curiosity directly helps ideas to emerge.
  • Curiosity helps us to make connections and repurpose things, which leads to solution finding.

These are just three of the reasons why curiosity is a key trait of entrepreneurs, as most great innovations were simply the direct result of a curious mind.

Think of any innovative person you know and you will find they are curious by nature, constantly learning, yet learning about diverse things, hence often deemed to be polymaths. And yes they constantly ask questions. How can I make it faster? How can I make it better? Is there another way? Why do I have to do it like this? What if I merged this with that? Some of the biggest companies today commenced simply because the founders asked one of these powerful questions and then created something that addressed it.

Innovators like Steve Jobs always had a sound appreciation of the power of curiosity:

Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity & intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Curiosity is a habit and a skill that can be conditioned into your mind the more we work on it. It starts with making simple small changes with everything you do. Asking questions you normally wouldn't, stepping outside of your comfort zone to get out of your old way of thinking. By challenging your current thinking habits you'll eventually create a new and fresh perspective to things that you never had before. But it doesn't just happen overnight, like any new habit you have to work to develop it. And soon you will see things from different perspectives and in doing so be more effective in everything you do.

This is all very well if you're someone who is naturally curious, but what if you're not? Don't worry, here are 5 ways you can nurture your curiosity:

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  1. Adventure is out there - Travel to different destinations and Google unique or quirky places to stay and things to do there. Be random and pick a destination you haven't been to. There are 197 countries in the world, so it's not like there's not plenty to choose from. And once there, don't do what you always do, try the regions foods, mix with the locals and learn about their lives. Atlas Obscura is a great site for finding curious things to see and do in different countries. And if you're not travelling in the near future, simply take a different route to work.

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  • Use your wonder lens - As children we wonder how they got the ship in the bottle and ask how did they make that? Making things can fire up your curiosity. Explore sites such as http://www.instructables.com Make use of potential opportunities to nurture your curiosity on http://www.groupon.com to explore and try new things. Anything from paragliding to macaroon making, because it doesn't matter what you're doing, just that you're doing something different from your norm is what stokes curiosity.
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  • Create curiosity by taking action - As humans we have a tendency to stick to the things we like, so make a conscious choice to watch films, movies, documentaries you wouldn't normally watch, read books and articles you wouldn't normally read and listen to podcasts and music you wouldn't normally listen to. Different writing, topics and styles of delivery help us to see the world through an alternative lens.
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  • Curiouser and curiouser - Spend time with children, as they are naturally curious and explore everything with a passion, being thrilled with the simplest of things. It's their way of showing how they make sense of their world. Observe how they constantly ask questions - then emulate their curiosity. Thereby re-developing the curiosity trait education and life has removed or limited in us.
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  • Be surprised - Instead of watching a Ted Talk on your favourite/regular topics make use of their Surprise Me feature. This is another simple yet effective way to shift from your usual comfort zone, because from one click of a button you're avoiding the usual and learning something new, an alternate perspective to nurturing your curiosity.
  • It's a pretty well known fact that curiosity and innovation are inextricably interrelated, as one cannot occur without the other. What is perhaps a little less known is that

    Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness [Bryant McGill].

    And isn't that what life and business is all about? I wonder...