The Curiosity Project.
The microwave was invented accidentally in 1945 by a self-taught engineer named Percy Spencer, who was leading a radar project for the defense giant, Raytheon. While testing a new vacuum tube called a magnetron, he discovered that a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted from the heat. He decided to try another experiment by placing some popcorn kernels near the magnetron, and watched as the kernels popped.
In other words, he was curious.
One of America’s greatest advantages as a country has been that we allow curiosity. At our best, we cultivate curiosity, even though there are always those who do their best to stomp out tender shoots of curiosity when they first appear. The tyrants I have known were not curious.
So now I am curious about your working situation. Do you believe you have the freedom to be curious? If you take a moment at work to pick up a thread to see if there might be an elephant on the other end, is it okay?
If you don’t have the freedom to be curious at work, it might be that one of the best things you can do for your career is to do it anyway — be curious surreptitiously. If your work doesn't leave room for curiosity, find a way to cultivate your own curiosity outside of work. Cultivating curiosity is the start of finding a more rewarding path.
There used to be more people with hobbies, and hobbies were a great way to support curiosity. Now it feels like looking at screens is a universal hobby. Given that, can we organize screen time around curiosity quests? What about a month of only reading media that expresses a point of view with which you completely disagree (take your blood pressure meds first)? Or only listening to podcasts about a subject about which you know nothing?
My brand new curiosity project is to see if I can learn basic video editing software. I am curious, which means that if it doesn't work, it means just figuring out why it didn't work. Being curious trumps the idea of failure.
To me, the important thing is to be curious about what is possible. And to be curious about what would happen if more of us dedicated ourselves to that, and not to fortifying opinions we’ve had longer than the redwoods have graced California.
Ronna Lichtenberg is your Business Granny, whose life now is about learning and sharing how to comb through the tangles that show up in everyone’s everyday life. She started work as a kid in her Dad’s bar, in complete violation of Child Labor Laws. Since then she has had fancy jobs, gone to fancy schools and programs and has been lucky enough to have a family much cooler than she is. People tend to come to her for advice about money and the relationships that come along with it: bosses, employees, investors, stakeholders, public officials and people who just have opinions.