Curiosity. EN

Carmen López

Psychologist. Master in Human Resources.

 

 

Looking for talent doesn't mean that you have to read a lot of curriculums, but to follow the trace it leaves: An excellent work. Because the most important thing is not what you learn, or the companies in which you have worked in. The most important thing is what you do. 

You need five things to make your work exceptional: Energy, focus, time, creativity and an total commitment to quality. 
 

Behind these five pillars there's just one thing: Motivation. Motivation is the difference between the world champion and the second classified. Motivation makes a runner run to the finish line when he has no more stamina left, a climber reach an impossible summit, a creator fight against himself until his work is perfect. With motivation you find time where there's no more time, motivation keeps your energy level and your focus at the highest level, and makes you see the world differently. When you are motivated you are capable of throwing away an almost finished work and starting it again until it is excellent. 

The motivation is generated by the necessity. It's clear: If someone is hungry, no doubt he will put all his mental, physical and time resources to satisfy that necessity. The necessity is the motive; the necessity shoots the motivation up. This isn´t new. In the 1930's, Abraham Maslow proposed a theory about the human needs. According to it, the people who mobilize their resources do it on account of a necessity: Eating, sex, money, belonging, acknowledgement or self-realization. 

 

But to find the source of Talent we have to look beyond the necessity. There´s no doubt that the physical needs subjugate the rest: Hunger, thirst, to avoid pain... but in developed economies, these needs are very often covered. Most of the people are motivated by the superior needs in the Maslow Pyramid: Money, power, belonging, freedom, acknowledgement or self-realization. And how the marketing experts and the sales people know very well, the needs can be created, changed or slanted. You just need to control one thing: the beliefs. If someone is absolute convinced about something he becomes unstoppable. 
 

The beliefs are the origin of everything else. 

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Curiosity is a primary characteristic of talented people. Curiosity makes you look forward to learning, improves the memory process and turns learning into a pleasant activity.

Curiosity is a hunger for learning

When hunger strikes it turns on the
brain reward circuit. Our body detects the shortage of nutrients and initiates the hungry feeling. In that moment, it is necessary to satisfy it. When we eat, the brain reward circuit secretes dopamin and we feel good. So next time we feel hunger we will now exactly what to do to restore our well-beign: eat.

The brain reward circuit was made to ensure our existence not just as individuals but also as species, because along with hunger and thirst our BRC is liable for the sexual response. When we have a vital need the circuit "kidnaps" us and distract our atention to food, water or sex.

Dopamine is very important in this system. It triggers desire and a craving for reward, setting off our motivation.

Dr. Matthias Gruber from the University of California has discovered thar curiosity , like hunger, triggers the brain reward circuit. When we are curious, learning becomes pleasant, something that our brain will try to repeat. It´s not uncommon that we speak about a "hunger for knowledge", because that´s precisely what curiosity provokes.

Our brain has placed the learning mechanism exactly in the same exact place where we find the control of the activities upon which our survival depends. Nature´s message is clear: Learning guarantees our survival as individuals and species.

Dr. Gruber discovered that when we experience curiosity the BRC secretes dopamine... and the activity in the hippocampus is increased. That part of our brain is related to memory, so it improves our capacity to remember what we are learning in that moment. That is why we learn so fast when we learn somethig interesting.

But the most unnexpected result of that experiment was the demostration that curiosity not only enhances our capacity to learn what you are interested in, but everything in that very moment that surrounds you: sound, faces, environment and everything that comes through our senses. Curiosity is more of a state than simply a drive; a state that makes us more aware about the world that surround us.

Curiosity generates profit

In the actual economic environment, all life-long learning has become a competitive advantage. Having a barchelor and master´s degree and speaking different languages when you are twenty-five years old can open many doors in the job market, but to keep on and grow you have to adapt and expand your knowledge and skills. Otherwise you will be out of date. The most competitive companies know the relationship between life-long learning and productivity. Tom Peters, the famous guru of management, devotes 80% of his time to investigation and learning and 20% to writing, speaking at conferences and management. And he has not done badly!

Life long learning is fundamental to companies and people. Curiosity is the key to expanding your learning skill. Growing curiosity among our staff will therefore increase our learning and competitiviveness. 

But, can we make curiosity grow in a person or a team? How? The answer to the first question is yes. For the second question there are different solutions.

How to awaken curiosity

1. The new and the unexpected. In the sixties, Daniel Berlyne developed the concept of perceptual curiosity. There are perceptual stimulus that suddenly grans our attention. The new, like the first iPhone, or the unexpected, like an elephant in the middle of the city, turns our curiosity on.

Showing the learning material from a brand new perspective or with unexpected media produces fantastic outcomes. 

2. Information gap. Lowenstein developed this theory in 1994. You can instigate curiosity when you give incomplete information. Naturaly, human beigns try to fill the gaps until we have a complete picture or idea. That´s why puzzles or word searces are so addictive. Lowenstein also proved that the closer the answer is, the bigger the curiosity.

When we want to remember the name of a person and we have it on the tip of the tongue it´s nearly impossible to give up. We try until we got it! Curiosity wins.

3. Information´s Significance. When companies ask their employees to learn a skill or knowledge, or a school or university demand their students to do so, the best practice is to tell the people why it is important. Curiosity grows when something is important, specially when it´s important for us. That´s why kids are not interested about interest rate or mortgages. It´s not a direct concern for them. But the parents pay attention, because it´s important for their finances.

4. Information´s usefulness. Can I apply this knowledge or skill to something valuable? An aeronautical engineer will read a book about aerodynamics with more atention than a Latin book. (At least in a majority of the cases). He can apply the first book to his work, but not the second.

5. A story. We are social animals and all information about others inmediatly awakens our curiosity. We love tales, real or imaginary. That´s why we have movies, books, theater and gossip. Learning is more effective when instead of data, there are people, their motivations and the relationships between them. When we remember the concept of gravity, we can imagine Newton sitting under the tree and the apple falling. But only a few can write the formula.

If you want somebody to learn something, don´t give him a 500-page book. Wake up his curiosity.