Curiosity is NOT a vice
You may have heard your parents tell you when you were a child that curiosity is a vice. I imagine this expression is based on the idea that curiosity leads a person to meddle in other people’s affairs, discover secrets, or pry where they shouldn’t, which can harm themselves or others…
I want to show you that curiosity is an excellent quality. Actually even an essential quality in an increasingly uncertain world. A world where what we believed to be true yesterday may no longer be true tomorrow. A world where the knowledge acquired yesterday may no longer help us understand today’s world. A world where we must marvel at novelty, at the unknown. A world where we must be curious!
Curiosity is particularly essential for three indispensable things in a more uncertain world:
So, I would like to show you how I use curiosity in my life to promote learning, innovation, and discovery:
- I experiment
- I read… books (to delve deep and not stay on the surface)
- I have Curiosity Meetings
One of my General Operating Principles (the principles by which I want to act and react) is: I learn to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Indeed, in a rapidly changing world, I want to be able to forget old knowledge that has become obsolete or irrelevant. I also want to be agile and easily embrace new ideas or tools that can improve my life or work.
Easier said than done? Indeed, it often requires me to accept experimenting with new things or new tools, even when a part of me resists (“It’s working fine as it is, why change?”)
For example, often when a new technology like ChatGPT appears, I have a part of myself, the futuristic part, that is super excited and wants to try everything right away (and write an article about it). And I have another part of myself (the “old-fart” part?) that is slower to start: “Another new thing, I’m fed up…”
So when I feel this resistance, I accept it. And then I consciously decide to overcome this resistance and try the new tool or approach. This often translates into me talking to myself: “Come on, that’s enough, get moving!” Or “Stop being the stubborn old guy, try it, you’ll see!”
I read books
In a world of instantaneity where one piece of information replaces another, it is increasingly difficult to take a step back.
Reading books both satisfies one’s curiosity in-depth and, above all, arouses curiosity for new subjects. Not the curiosity of an information butterfly that jumps from one tweet to another, but a curiosity that wants to understand the issues in depth.
I have Curiosity Meetings
One of the moments where curiosity could seem most inappropriate, even impolite, turns out to be one of the moments where curiosity generates the most discoveries: meeting new people.
What I call Curiosity Meetings.
So, I have developed and been using a method that amazes me every time I use it. Even in cases that I thought would be difficult ones…
How to turn a boring dinner into unforgettable memories?
I am regularly surprised to see how it is possible to transform a lunch, a dinner, or a meeting that seems to be particularly boring with seemingly uninteresting people into exciting encounters with people whose incredible personal stories we didn’t suspect.
How to achieve such an operation, such a miracle? Simply by having a list of questions that can shift a conversation towards more “depth.”
Here is the list of questions I use during my Curiosity Meetings:
- What is your typical day like?
- What excites you the most in the coming weeks?
- What do you spend most of your time on?
- At your level, what is your biggest problem?
- What are you most proud of today?
- How did you end up living in [their city]?
- Why did you decide to do [their job]?
- If today were your last day on Earth and you had to leave a manual, a guidebook with three sentences for your daughter, son, or family, what would you write in it?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
And my favorite question:
- How can I help you?
Of course, I don’t ask all these questions one after the other! It’s more like a list from which I choose the most appropriate ones for the context, the person I’m meeting… and my mood.
I suggest you choose 2 or 3 questions from this list and try them out at the next opportunity!
Curiosity = Surprise
The beauty of curiosity is to evoke surprise. If you only get the answers you expect, you’re not showing curiosity.
When you get surprising answers or, even better, answers that disturb you, then you are truly curious.
And, of course, the secret is not just asking the right questions: it’s about listening carefully to the answers!