George DeMestral was walking with his dog one day in the woods when he noticed that he had burrs attached to his pants as well as his dog. He was curious whether the burrs could be useful. When DeMestral looked at the burrs under a microscope, he saw a number of tiny hooks. He began to wonder if he could reproduce the essence of the burrs combined with a series of eyes to attach the hooks to form a fastener. After 8 years of trying, he succeeded. The product we know as Velcro was invented. Velcro was a combination of velvet and crochet.

Curiosity is often mentioned as one of the critical attributes of success. However, the reality is that we really don’t foster curiosity as a society. Think about our responses to children when they ask why or how come questions. And what about the saying: curiosity killed the cat.

Think about labs that students have in high school and college. They have become so scripted that we have stripped away all elements of curiosity. Classroom presentations have become victims of technology at the expense of an opportunity to explore new concepts with students.  How much can we expect students to learn in a class involving problem solving that is taught with PowerPoint?

In the business world, return on investment has become the driving force. It’s hard to measure the financial impact of ideas arising from curiosity. Would any business today invest 8 years of resources in developing Velcro where there wasn’t a guaranteed market?

Curiosity can be encouraged and developed. But curiosity is also very fragile. That’s why some of our innovative thought leaders often struggle with conventional life journeys. Think about how many of our successful technology leaders dropped out of college because they were discouraged by the lack of curiosity in education. Our innovators in advancing new art forms often become discouraged by the restrictions they found placed on them by those who have artistic skills but lack curiosity. Leaders who become curious and challenge the established thinking in the social and political world are often ridiculed.

Imagine how different our world would be if job interviews always contained the question: What are you curious about? How might education change if we asked students to reflect on the subject matter and tell us what they were curious about that wasn’t covered in class? What might be the impact of setting aside investment funding for ideas based upon curiosity?

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            “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” –Albert Einstein

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.