Linda Gorchels blogs

Curiosity amplifies your creativity

(This is the 2nd of a 9-part series on creativity traits.)

Curious: passionate for fresh knowledge; desiring to learn new things
Resilient: capable of overcoming setbacks; able to take risks; ambitious
Evaluative: willing to experiment and evolve your creativity beyond the idea stage
Autonomous: independent; norm-doubting
Tuned in: open and alert to the world around you; highly perceptive
Introspective: driven by innate (intrinsic) rewards; self-accepting
Visionary: having dreams and aspirations; original thinking
Energetic: adept at managing and recharging your energy Creative curiosity

Be forever curious

We are surrounded by new ideas. In various stages of formation. All the time.

But we might not be curious enough to even notice them. Don’t lose your sense of curiosity. Amplify it.

Becoming interested in something kindles your curiosity to learn more. And ironically, by learning more you realize how much you don’t know. That can generate more curiosity. Interest encourages learning, which in turn, increases interest to learn more. That’s curiosity.

Curiosity is not a general instinct

Curiosity is a critical component of creativity. But while all humans have some degree of curiosity, it is not an instinct. In other words, it’s not a fixed response to some stimulus. Nor is it a routine or predictable action pattern. Rather, curiosity is an individual interest in trying to understand something you don’t know.

So, how important is curiosity? A Psychology Today blog post stated that curiosity and conscientiousness were found to be more important than intelligence in predicting success.

Do adults lose curiosity?

Many people believe that kids are naturally more curious than adults. On the surface this seems reasonable since there is so much more they need to discover. However, it’s not black-and-white. We are all aware of some kids who are more curious than others. And even some adults who are more curious than kids. So it’s not just a gap in knowledge, but rather in an interest or desire to learn more.

Raise your creative curiosity

To amplify your curiosity, expand your thinking. Be curious about more and more things. Learn a new hobby. Complete a household project you’ve never attempted before. Develop an unexplored professional skill. Delve into an online course. Make learning a life-long goal rather than a burden to be endured. As you build your bank of knowledge, focus not only on what you’re learning, but also on the process itself. As a first step toward creativity, enjoyment of the process of curiosity (i.e., learning) can be an intrinsic reward – a motivation – for many people.

Ask questions

Asking questions – and finding answers to the questions – is somewhat of a template for the process of curiosity. As Einstein said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” When faced with new information or unknowns, ask challenging questions, such as: Why? How? What if? Why not? Look for the answers that everyone else is ignoring (or too busy to consider). Political consultant, Bernard Baruch, was quoted as saying: “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked ‘Why?’.”

So start asking questions. Lots of them. Here are some examples.

Can ordinary things be used in extraordinary ways? Spider silk and silkworm silk, which are biocompatible with human tissue, have been used to treat nerve damage. Efforts are under way to increase usage for regenerative medicine, and to find better ways to commercialize the process.

What caused that to happen? The story of Percy Spencer’s curiosity has been well-publicized. In 1945, while working near microwave magnetrons, he discovered a candy bar had melted in his pocket. He tried to figure out how it happened. The result was the microwave oven.

And asking “what else could this be used for?” can sometimes trigger accidental inventions. Play-Doh was originally a wallpaper cleaner. Velcro was discovered by George de Mestral when he noticed burrs sticking to his hunting dog’s fur. Saccharin was originally discovered by a chemist looking for alternative uses for coal tar derivatives.

Capture your ideas

Even when curious people are good idea generators, they don’t always keep track of these ideas. Do you have the discipline to capture your ideas? Do you jot down notes and review them periodically?

Apply curiosity to your domain expertise carefully

As people grow older, their curiosity may become more focused in specific domains. Occupational fields, defined recreational activities, or individual (personal and spiritual) pursuits are the center of their attention. That means the questions they are asking and the answers they are seeking have a more limited scope. But curiosity can still be fostered – as long as the domains don’t become so few or so narrow as to restrict open-mindedness and objectivity.

Where to from here?

A challenge that occurs as people gain expertise in specific domains is that they can become more risk-averse and less tolerant of failure. So in addition to curiosity, building resilience in the face of failure is necessary for creativity. That will be covered in the 3rd post.