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The importance of being curious

Maja Radosavljević

Curiosity is at the heart of all genuinely creative or strategic work but, all too often, its power remains untapped.

It is a fundamental part of being human, and while some people seem to be more curious than others, there are times when we’ve all been hungry to learn more about something, and we all know how incredible it feels to channel that initial spark of pure inspiration into discovering new things.

It’s not always easy to find that spark, or the motivation to follow up. So, why does curiosity matter?

We all know how incredible it feels to channel that initial spark of pure inspiration into discovering new things.

The power of curiosity

In a world that often seems hell-bent on dampening our curiosity, asking questions is a radical and necessary act. Caught between two extremes – being bombarded by information, or choosing streamlined, frictionless alternatives – it’s natural to pick the path of least resistance. The highs and lows of the last 18 months have drained many of us of our energy to think, and curtailed our desire to seek out new and unfamiliar experiences.

We’re also facing increasing pressure to get more done, faster. There’s more pace and less space to think and explore – especially in the workplace. Under the circumstances, it’s often easier to rely on learned experience to get things done. Autopilot can save time, and often delivers passable results.

But, if we want to create meaningful change, we need to be brave enough to try new things and be open enough to accept that sometimes that means making mistakes. It’s tough, but it’s worth it – especially in an industry like ours.

Because curiosity is a precursor to creativity. It gives us the passion, energy and desire to explore. It encourages us to take risks and step into the unknown. And, while it can lead to challenging outcomes or the occasional dead end, it also strengthens our perseverance and resilience as we push past existing beliefs in pursuit of fresh perspectives. No wonder curious people are seldom bored.

There’s more pace and less space to think and explore – especially in the workplace.

If you haven’t felt that spark for a while, don’t fret. Keep an open mind. Curiosity is something we cultivate and build, just like a muscle. While we may be a little out of shape, it doesn’t mean we can’t bulk up. Here’s how.

How to unleash your curiosity

Step away from your screen. Seek inspiration elsewhere. Read more. Visit a gallery. Or a library. Watch a film. Take yourself for a walk. Talk to strangers. Open yourself up to serendipitous occurrences. And, for the love of God, put your phone away.

Never assume. Assumptions are based on one version of the truth: our own. By relying solely on past experience, we miss out on opportunities to connect with and relate to others, think creatively, and progress. So, make a point of regularly challenging your own thinking and learn to get comfortable with uncertainty.

Keep asking questions. Don’t rush ahead to the finish line because of pressure to find 'the answer', or stop when you think you’ve got there. Instead, learn to enjoy uncovering new things. Keep asking questions, even the 'stupid' ones. And, most importantly, listen - and I mean really listen - to the answers.

Find the fun. Try reframing the problem as an exciting opportunity to discover something new. It’s likely your curiosity will naturally kick in and transform your entire approach.

Surround yourself with the right people. Curiosity needs the right environment and culture in which to thrive. So, find the folks that energise you and ignite that spark – the ones who aren’t afraid to challenge, support and encourage you to keep exploring; who inspire you and have your back, no matter how many times you ask a 'silly' question.

The easiest way to start is to simply reflect on things you’ve already done and ask: what could you have done differently?

For the love of God, put your phone away.

Part logic, part magic

It’s fun to get lost in discovery but, at the end of the day, we still need to get things done. So, how do you know when to stop and come up for air?

For me, it’s part intuition, part planning. Having a clear objective from the outset is key. If I’m working on a client challenge, I’ll often start with a hunch or a hypothesis and follow that thread for as long as it feels fruitful. When further discovery isn’t bringing anything significantly new to the table, it’s time to synthesise.

Or I’ll give myself a set period – a few hours, or a day – to go completely nuts. After that, it’s pencils down to hone the most interesting bits: any exploration we at The Frameworks do is bolstered by insights and data from qualitative and quantitative research, audience intelligence and other research. This helps to fine-tune our creativity for impact.

Being – and staying – curious takes a lot of effort, but the rewards are immeasurable.