Curiosity is a primary element of our cognitive thinking. It has long been fascinating to laymen and scholars alike. Asking beautiful questions to ignite curiosity leads to beautiful answers and have, in fact, contributed to the greatest inventions.
Consider Edwin Land’s example, who already was an accomplished inventor of the Polaroid camera but his young daughter was not satisfied with his father’s performance. When his three-year-old daughter on a holiday asked a question, ‘Why do we have to wait for the picture daddy?’ Edwin Land explained to his daughter that the picture first goes to a lab to develop in a dark room and then we see the picture. At that very moment, Edwin Land took his daughter’s question as a motivation to solve the problem of getting instant photographs and created an instant film model after research.
We learn from this story that igniting curiosity starts with asking beautiful questions such as ‘Why?’ from his daughter, but that was not it. Edwin Land actually went a little further. He also asked ‘What if?’ and ‘How?’, because that led him to imagine, what if there is a dark room inside a camera and the challenging aspect comes when he answered how because it’s a stage when imagination is put to result driven action. The trick is to break ‘how’ into further smaller questions and answering them one by one. Today the photography industry is worth billions of dollars, all initiated with one curious question.
As young kids, we naturally have a tendency to ask many questions. In an eye-opening survey in the United Kingdom, it was noted that a kid asks closer to 300 questions a day with the most inquiries coming from four-year old daughters with whopping 390 questions per day. The questions revealed in the survey are even more mind boggling such as ‘Why is the sky blue?’ and ‘Why is water wet?’ and so on and so forth. However, what is worrying is that the number of questions asked significantly drops to 144 per day when the kid reaches the age of nine and continues to drop as we grow older. Of course, our knowledge base is growing as time passes and hence, less questions are asked but if we look a little closer in the situation it is perhaps because the environment we grow in simply discourages asking more thought provoking questions. We actually feel a little uncomfortable to ask questions thinking what might others create an impression of us or a boss screaming don’t you know this already.
As a result, we need to carefully select and choose the environment that we nurture ourselves in. An environment of like-minded individuals that nurtures and rekindles our curiosity as we were young.
One way I carefully re-engineered and chose the environment I wanted to be in is the Toastmasters organization. It is a platform that ignites my curiosity to learn and in the process enhance my communication and leadership skills. I have felt that it is curiosity that is embedded in the very fabric of ‘Toastmasters’ culture. We are all curious individuals who join at one platform and feel comfortable at asking questions.
Thus in today’s environment where positive, constructive, creative thinking is ever more required, we need to rekindle our curiosity. That leads me to ask one question from you though: When are you joining Toastmasters to serve your inquisitive mind?