The foundations and underpinnings of Creativity and Innovation we’ve all got, yet forgot.
Two human qualities necessary for Creativity and Innovation are openness and curiosity. We’ll take them both on here.
First, openness or open-mindedness. Most people are far too close-minded to ever be worth much to innovation or to Creativity. They barely leave their town or city. They aren’t concerned with what goes on outside their town or city. They’re provincial. They don’t read to expand their knowledge of the world. They don’t seek out new information and new perspectives to see what life might be like for others dissimilar from them. They rarely travel. They go to their job. They go to church. They go to the grocery store. Maybe see a friend. That’s about it for travel. This close-mindedness isn’t necessary a lack of education, even into college. You can have a college degree and still be close-minded, still be wildly shut off from most of the rest of the world. It’s not about college, though college does help here for most because college is a time to explore. Close-mindedness is a state of mind, but also a choice. A choice on how you see the world.
You can spot an open vs. closed person when you pitch new things to them. They show their feathers immediately. Not open to new foods. Not open to new experiences. Not open to travel far. Not open to new music. Not open to reading much of anything. Not open to open dialogue about politics. Closed off from much of the world. Always held back by dogma. Again, a closed state of mind. These are not fun people to party with or hang around.
Conversely, the open person will be open to new experiences. Open to new ‘exotic’ foods. Open to meet new people and to learn from them. Open to travel. Open to new kinds of music. Open to reading new subjects. Open to reasonable dialogue without harassment. Open to ideas of the world. Open to the idea that they might not be right. Open to no one having 100% control over the truth. Dogma alarms the openminded person, and doesn’t hold her back. The openminded person is hungry, curious for knowledge, open to new ideas, believes they do not have all the answers, and seeks out different, divergent perspectives and tries not to judge them.
You can see how difficult it would be for the close-minded person to Create, to innovate, to solve things outside of their expertise. They don’t think learning anything outside of their expertise is worthwhile. They think they got it. They closed themselves off from 99% of the world, choosing only to focus on their tiny part of it where they have the wild illusion of control.
Open v. Closed state of mind.
It’s important to stress that open-mindedness vs. close-mindedness is a choice. Just like Carol Dweck teaches us in her work. Do you think you can grow, or do you not think you can grow? It’s all a mindset. Openminded people think they can grow. Close-minded people think they cannot. Open v. Closed is a state of mind, a choice. “I think I can.” Or, “I don’t think I can.” Worse, if I don’t think I can, then, many, many others cannot, too. And, even sillier, “open-mindedness is /only for those people/ over there, those creative types.” No. It is a choice, a state of mind. An outlook. An attitude. We build it and practice it ourselves each day, multiple times per day. Open or closed, it is up to us. We possess the power.
What about curiosity? It turns out that curiosity is a super power. A few people actively practice it while most do not. Most do not even think about it, yet its powers remain latent in each one of us. It’s always there, lying in state, dormant, just waiting to be awakened within. It’s open to all of us, yet so few of us choose to catalyze it.
Curiosity says to look outside oneself for answers. Curiosity is inquiry to the other. Curiosity is awareness of and intrigue into other perspectives. Curiosity asks, asks, asks, and then listens. Then, asks again. And again. Curiosity is a gift we give ourselves as well as other people. And, like openminded ness or any other positive human quality, it can be developed and honed like a muscle. We’re already ready for it. We just need to explore it and ask about it.
The naturally curious.
Children are naturally curious. The world is brand new to them. They ask, ask, ask away, often to the annoyance of parents and teachers. They don’t need to be taught the Five Whys — those are innate in kids. (Adults need to be taught the Five Whys. Adults typically have their curiosity squeezed out of them by high school.)
Children are fabulous examples of human curiosity and inquiry, even if they don’t understand the answers. It’s sort of like reading a book that you don’t understand, but you keep at it anyway. Just like the gym on a hard work-out. You keep going. Kids keep going, too, even if they don’t get it right away. Children exhibit the I-don’t-know-why-but-I-am-going-anyway act, a truly fabulous act! They may not know what they’re doing, but they don’t care in the best possible way. The young ones are not afraid to not know and still GO! They embrace uncertainty. To recapture that as adults is a wonderful quality. To not know and still GO! For we can always make it better. Always. But we first have to have the courage to go while not knowing, the courage to pursue and to build. Children have no problem with this. Only we adults do.
The Gift of Openmindedness.
What will curiosity give you? An open mind. A willingness to explore. A desire to travel and to learn. A dedication to lifelong learning. An openness to new ways of execution. A willingness to learn from other industries. An ability to learn from those who came before you. A dedication to making things better. A search for truth bottom-up, not top-down, just like innovation. There is no reasonable downside to curiosity.
Curiosity, like open-mindedness, is open to us all. Yet few of us will courageously practice it. So like so many with open-mindedness, it lies dormant within. If you believe you can grow, you have a far more likely chance of being openminded. If you don’t believe you can grow, then God help you. This may not be the platform for you.
Super powers are not limited to the X-Men or the Avengers. No. We can choose to engage them and practice them as well. Curiosity is, in fact, a super power because it will set your inquiry free and dedicate you to lifelong learning, which so few of us do. Most of us stop learning in high school. It is just like a muscle in that you have to practice it, hone it, test it to strengthen it. We have to be willing to strengthen it or else like any other muscle, it atrophies. Again, it is a choice.
With great responsibility comes great power.
With great responsibility comes great power. (Thank you, Jim Kwik!) Take responsibility for your inquiry. Take responsibility for your open-mindedness. Take responsibility for your learning. Take responsibility for your curiosity. Take responsibility for asking, asking, asking. And if you’re really advanced, take responsibility for listening! Seek it out.
Take your curiosity examples from children. They don’t know, yet they still ask, they still GO. You are never going to know for sure until you ask, until you test. Even then, ask again. Test again. Try different angles.
Open-mindedness and curiosity will blow open the doors of the possible for you.