Curiosity and critical thinking are essential business skills for our fast changing modern world. They are also identified as important traits of the genius possessed by thought-leaders from our past. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs were all curious and critical thinkers. They each developed disruptive innovation. Not only were they thinking about the who, what, when, where, why and how, but also “Does it have to be that way, or can it be improved?” Curiosity keeps your mind active. The incessant barrage of questions from a 4-year old child is research; fact finding about their world so reasonable assumptions can be made.
We can draw an analogy here to our own CabForwardSM Discovery Sessions, where we probe deep into the idea for a digital app to discover the assumptions and features to formulate the minimum viable product. Technology and innovation have come together to make all types of new digital products available to us to improve our lifestyles on every front. Those apps were developed by curious people who wondered, “How can this be improved?” Our job is to be curious about whether the product can be successful in the marketplace. So, we ask, “Why?” a lot.
Curious people ask a lot of questions in order to assimilate more information. Their minds are always active. The mental exercise caused by curiosity strengthens your brain and makes it more observant of new ideas, new worlds and possibilities which may not normally be visible. Critical thinkers are able to analyze what is going on around them from a variety of angles, which results in more frequent success in making personal and business decisions.
Curiosity is at the heart of business growth, revelatory pivots, and digital or combinational innovation. When an encounter, new concept, or shift in opportunities forces a reset of your baseline assumptions, critical thinking skills are deployed, and decisions made. It is a combination of relentless business awareness, curious engagement and research, that results in a plan for actionable steps.
Relentless business awareness
Social media is the largest exchange of information in the history of humanity. It is available to huge portions of the world’s population. The dynamic, self-referencing, organic phenomenon is independent of the control of any single company, agency, government, philosophy or frame of reference. It is a treasure trove of information, misinformation and opinions from every perspective.
Ninety percent (90%) of all traffic happens on ten percent (10%) of Internet sites. The remaining ten percent (10%) of traffic happens on a tapering power curve of exotic and esoteric sites. Chris Anderson terms it “the long tail” in the book of the same name. By Anderson’s reckoning, almost anything and everything is represented someplace on the Internet.
It is imperative today to immerse yourself in a constant flow of new information. There are alerts, general and industry-specific news feeds, blogs, and countless other data gathering tools that can aid in this process. The most powerful factor is maintaining the discipline to exercise your curiosity and apply what you learn in your critical thinking.
A casual friend, and mentor of sorts, defines curious engagement as a mental itch that compels active investigation. The investigation ranges from researching a subject, to actually purchasing – becoming fully invested in the idea or concept. I did this just recently with the iWatch. I am curious about the perceived and real values of this wearable technology. This is the research part of research and development. The development part will come into play as the wearable industry learns how the concept is actually used over time by consumers.
The whole planet is now connected, facilitating the sharing of likes and dislikes, ideas and concepts. There are countless support groups, how-to forums, discussions, open-source sharing sites, and other resources available. Their value cannot be overestimated. The wearable industry monitors these information sources to gain real insights into the next product release. You can do similar research using these same tools to fuel your insight and improve your critical thinking.
Plan for actionable steps
Relentless business awareness and curious engagement are both incredibly powerful and dangerous. The Internet allows for all things to be researched, quickly and easily. . The seductive simplicity of how-to videos, open source code, open source products, and the massive spectrum of enabling resources makes the tasks easily possible and imminently doable, and that is the danger. The dichotomy of “everything that can be done versus everything that should be done” is at the core of the new Internet-powered world of R&D. The better and more compelling the idea or concept, the more critical is the need for a plan that will translate into the next great thing.
Now, knowing the importance of curiosity coupled with critical thinking, here are eight brilliant tips to help you develop these essential traits yourself:
1. Keep an open mind. Be open to learning, unlearning, and relearning. Critical thinkers know that it is impossible to be right about everything all the time. Be aware that what you believe might be wrong, so you’re able to change your mind and pivot.
2. Be fascinated by how things work. Critical thinkers have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Exercise your childlike curiosity for everything around you.
3. Don’t take life for granted. Probe beneath the surface. Ask yourself, “who, what, where, why, when, and how?” Ask questions: Who does this process affect? What problem does it solve? When does it apply? Why do we do it this way? How can it be improved?
4. Read widely and diversely. Be curious about another occupations, cultures. and opinions that introduce you to the possibilities and excitement of others. Subscribe to a variety of blogs and newsletters and let them feed your curiosity and critical thinking.
5. See learning as a fun pursuit. Be open to new views of what you think you already know. The world is changing quickly, and you will want to change with it to ensure your ongoing success. Watch life through the lenses of fun and excitement and enjoy the learning process.
6. Seek rational conversations with people you disagree with. Any opinion worth having should hold up to scrutiny, so seek conversations with people on the opposite side of the spectrum as an opportunity to learn more about the thought process of those who think differently.
7. Strive for creative, innovative, original ideas. Learn from the successes of your thought-leader heroes, but search for your own original ideas that are anything but predictable or conventional. Innovate rather than regurgitate.
8. Evolve as a person every single day. Wake up every day knowing that you have another opportunity to sharpen your thinking ability. Be humble. Realize that you still have a lot to learn, and approach research from a position of modesty.
Perhaps you can now see how being curious and thinking critically can lead to being more innovative. Those traits can lead you to visualizing entirely new ways of doing things, often through digital products, which have become an important part of our every day lives. Technology and Innovation have come together in our modern world to completely change the way we do things, often Disrupting incumbent industry leaders and replacing them with new world digital Entrepreneurs. This is the TIDE of change, and you can play a major role in it.
Did you see yourself reflected in these 8 points? Do you have an idea for the next great thing? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
CabForward’s curious geeks plan for your app’s success by using critical thinking in research and development all the way through the launch of your product. CabForward geeks care about your success.
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