It takes a great mind and humble heart like Albert Einstein’s to say “I have no special talent. I am only
passionately curious”. Yet people mistake his genius to intelligence or brain power. Even Dr. Thomas Harvey, a
pathologist was taken in to believing that Einstein’s brain held the key to his genius and stole it after his
death. Unfortunately he found nothing remarkable before the family found out about the theft. Research shows that
curiosity leads to better relationships, more creativity and great conversations. A conversation can be had with a
physical person or even a book. While reading if one is constantly engaged in contrasting with what one already
knows, questioning and thinking ahead, it’s like having a real conversation as the book unveils further. No wonder
then most genius of the 21st century were voracious readers.
Contrast this with today’s young generation and one sees a sorry picture. With constant bombardment of sensory
media from everywhere, the attention span get frayed and shortened, leading to early burnouts. The natural
curiosity that children come equipped with gets thwarted in an environment of learning where answers are paramount
It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. Most have woken up to this reality and are making efforts to change education. Bringing in more inquiry and student led learning paths. Yet one must exercise caution.
Questioning without awareness can lead to impulsive mechanical questioning that does not translate to the process of knowing. Einstein is also credited with the following quote “if I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”.
Questioning must be grounded in passion and awareness. Maybe that’s why author Thomas Friedman coined the term
Curiosity Quotient (CQ), a person’s ability to dig for fresh perspectives. Combined with Passion Quotient (PQ),
curiosity he explains, it goes on to surpass a person’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ).
What he means is that, if one was to combine natural curiosity with intense passion for a subject, the
brainstorming results would be higher than if you only had high intelligence. Harish Bhat, author of ‘The Curious
Marketer’ shares this story about Steve Job’s commencement address at Stanford University. The Apple co-founder
attributed his curiosity for taking up a course in calligraphy, which several years later, helped him to design
the distinctive Macintosh GUI. Adam Bryant, New York Times columnist, interviewed 525 CEOs in a ten-year span and
found that ‘Applied Curiosity’ was the single most important factor explaining their careers.
Applied curiosity means trying to understand how things work and then trying to understand how to make them work
better. Its means to be curious about people and their life stories, its means using simple frameworks and models
to explain the increasing chaos and disruptions in the industry to others. It means to question the models and
that often leads to breakthrough ideas. Leadership coach, speaker and author Art Petty says, “In the right
environment, curiosity leads to experimentation. Experimentation is the foundation of innovation”.
So what are the characteristics of people with high CQ?
1. Such people are more inquisitive and open to new experiences.
2. They find novelty exciting and are easily bored with routine.
3. Counter – conformist, they are excellent at generating new ideas.
4. They more tolerant of ambiguity and complexity in their environments.
5. They have higher levels of intellectual investment in knowledge acquisition over time.
How does one develop ones CQ?
1. By being aware of our blind spots and ignorance we become open-minded and less judgmental.
2. Embracing new experiences we watch the world with new eyes.
3. Constantly reading we learn more about the world we inhabit.