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The Art Of Being Curious

It’s been said that creativity is finding two unrelated things and putting them together. If that’s true, the more unrelated things you experience, the better your chances of finding those two things in the first place.

For sure, creativity is a funny thing. Even though there’s been tons of research and scientific dabbling into the creative mind, there’s no concrete answer as to why some people are more creative than others. There’s no evidence of a creative gene, so to speak.

But there are similarities or traits that these people share. This isn’t about people who happen to work in a so-named creative department. Because creativity is not reserved for some people. It’s not confined by what you do for a living or whether or not you possess certain artistic talents.

Creativity is everywhere. It can be anything. It can show up in a clever interpretation of the tax code or last night’s exotic casserole. That’s because creativity is a way of living your life. It’s a way of doing things. A unique perspective.

True creativity is the art of being curious.

So the goal of any organization or business should be to find these curious people. To fill out the roster with men and women who possess that never-ending sense of wonder and discovery. People who ponder the possibilities. Who like to tinker and dig. The ones who wander the psychic landscape and question the world at large.

These are the kind of people who get engrossed in science shows about the trade winds in Upper Mongolia. They’re fascinated by stories of ants that have somehow made a home on the 103rd floor of the Empire State Building. They search, they daydream and stare up at the night sky.

Because these are the people who will most likely find a cure for cancer. They’re the ones who put two and two together and find the formula for time travel.

In short, these are the people who see things differently than the rest. They bring a unique perspective and find new ways of doing things. They don’t want to tread on well-worn paths, they search for a new way through. More importantly, they’re extraordinarily keen to the odd occurrences and unforeseen opportunities that ultimately lead to our biggest breakthroughs.

Does the company president who runs to Michigan to cultivate a small farm make him more eager to grow the talent at his company rather than buying it out in the marketplace?

What about a media director who spends her precious time off searching the stars and planets as an amateur astronomer? Would that enhance her abilities to search the media landscape for the next great opportunity?

There are mail room guys who dabble in the stock market. CEO’s who spend their time making documentaries. Digital planners who build children’s playgrounds, rock ‘n roll accountants, IT racecar drivers, and on and on.

People who are curious about their world, who have hobbies and passions bring so much more to their everyday responsibilities. And the businesses where these people work will undoubtedly reap the benefits of their creativity.

5 things you can do right now to become a more curious person:

1. Be more ludic. The very next word you don’t know the meaning of, look it up. Go to an actual dictionary. Google it. Dictionary dot com it. Where did the word come from? Did you know that aposiopesis comes from the Greek word of the same spelling? It means to suddenly become silent as if from an inability to proceed. Or that ludic means to be playful in an aimless way? Cultivating a rich vocabulary is one of the greatest things you can do to grow personally and professionally.

2. Travel every day. Tonight on the way home, take a different path. Don’t take a cab, walk for a while. If you drive, go a different route. Instead of getting on the subway, explore a bit. There are so many things to see and do in our immediate little world. Did you know that record store was there? Pick up a vinyl copy of Some Girls by the Rolling Stones. Bronzeville is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Chicago – why is it called Bronzeville? Become more aware of the here-and-now. Be more present in your own life. The rewards are enormous.

3. Ask dumb questions. Find that childlike curiosity you once had. Be willing to ask anything about everything. Find the answers to things you always wanted to know but never bothered to find out. Questioning our world is how we grow. But somewhere along the way we become afraid to ask things. Most CEO’s agree that asking questions is what makes for great leadership. Smart leaders understand that the dumbest questions can be incredibly powerful. They unlock places we didn’t think to go.

4. Go bookstoring. Go to an actual bookstore and start picking up books and things that interest you. Encountering information that’s not specific to your goal or question is the fastest way to bump into serendipity. Innovation relies on unexpected collisions of knowledge and ideas. Bookstores are perfect way to crash into the unknown. The economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote, “one should enter a bookstore vaguely, almost in a dream and allow what’s there to freely attract and influence, dipping in as curiosity dictates.”

5. Do something weird. Be unexpected. Dress inappropriately. Eat something you think you don’t like. Talk to a stranger. Read some stereo instructions. Make a list of things you always wanted to do and do one of them. Go ballroom dancing alone. Read up on cat-rearing.

You never know where you’ll find curiosity. And that’s the point.

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