The Case for Curiosity
There is a quote at the end of the Disney movie, Meet the Robinson’s, that has always stood out:
What the quote suggests is that curiosity is a driving force for collaboration, innovation, learning, and change. This begs the question. Why more L&D organizations do not encourage, nurture, or champion curiosity in their companies?
In her Harvard Business Review article, The Business Case for Curiosity, lays out the benefits of curiosity to the organizations as:
- Fewer decision-making errors
- More innovation and positive changes in both creative and noncreative jobs
- Reduced group conflict
- More open communication and better team performance
If curiosity is such a powerful driver of organizational change and advancement, then why do more learning organizations not make it a central strategy to their efforts? In a survey of Chief Learning Officers conducted by Professor Gino, she found that “they often shy away from encouraging curiosity because they believe the company would be harder to manage if people were allowed to explore their own interest.” This point seems to run counter the to both the rallying cry of personalization of learning and is a detriment to the organization at large.
Building Curiosity into Content Development
What does it mean to build curiosity into your learning and content development? For WeLearn it means starting with our first principle, putting learners in the center of the learning experience. We start with a framework of curiosity and ask ourselves questions like “what would make this learning more personal?” or “what would make this learning more joyful” – and trust us – you can create joy in learning – even for the driest of topics (we are looking at you compliance training).
We also think about how can learning experiences spark curiosity. For example, placing easter eggs in courses that prompt exploration of a topic outside of the course. Or, creating wrap assets that support the formal objective of the course, like a backstage podcast. Or, a curated set of resources on the company’s intranet or internet. No one learning experience is going to provide a learner everything they need to know about a given subject. We need to stop designing learning experiences like they will be build to meet the objectives at hand. Rather, we need to think about that moment when the learner wants to know more and provide pathways for them to do so.
The Five Dimensions of Curiosity
In 1994 George Lowenstein, of Carnegie Mellon University, theorized that people become curious when they realize they do not know something.This lack of knowledge creates an adverse feeling of uncertainty which sparks curiosity to acquire the missing knowledge. He called this “The Information Gap Theory.”
If we have you curious (see what we did there) about curiosity and how to build it into the way in which you develop learning content, did you know there is not just one dimension to curiosity – but rather five of them. As a content creator, consider how to incorporate the different dimensions of curiosity in the learning content you develop:
- Integrate the “keep you up at night” scenarios into your learning experiences. These types of scenarios prompt your employees to ask “What If” or “What About” questions – which drives opportunities for innovation and collaboration. (Deprivation Sensitivity)
- Provide the opportunities for learners to reflect on their learning journey and how they have grown. (Joyous Exploration)
- Embed discussions with those who have excelled in the topic. Allow learners to see the paths that other had tread (Social Curiosity)
- Construct “tabletop” simulations or “fish bowl” exercises that both create a safe environment for learning and allow learners to work through the stress of learning what they do not know. (Stress Tolerance)
- Build in an opportunity for learners to take risks. Allowing learners to experiment in the margins, try new approaches, and apply new skills to ensure that learning sticks. (Thrill Seeking)
Keep Moving Forward
At WeLearn, while we learn from our past engagements, we keep moving forward.
As content creators, we look for new and novel ways to apply storytelling, visual design, and technology to the learning experiences we design for our partners.
We believe in creating engagement and sparking joy for learners and that in doing so, we spark curiosity and learning agility. Learning agility is a fundamental to building better humans.
We believe that learning is joyful when it is beautiful, surprising, and fun. This is the core promise we make to all our clients. It is our north star.
We are all in this together, and together we learn.