'How' are you Curious?

Updated: Aug 30

The 4 Types of Curiosity for STEM professionals

We live in more complex and uncertain times. This places high demand on mental effort so it helps if we can stretch beyond what we already know and leverage our innate curiosity. Imagination and curiosity are also great ways to help us cope with uncertainty, but did you know that there are actually four different types of curiosity?

This is what I learned from the U.S. company, Applied Curiosity recently It inspired me and I hope this article does you too to help leverage your particular innate curiosity -

Which of the above is your 'curiosity archetype' as knowing this can help you to generate new ideas or notice what others don’t. In wicked learning environments, where the past isn’t repeating itself, our curiosity can help us spot new patterns that unlock opportunities for creativity and innovation:

Which one of the following are you -

1. Like Amelia Earhart; the 'adventurer' type?

You need to experience new things to bring back ideas that can be applied to your existing environment. When was the last time you toured (in person or virtually) a different site with the same processes or constraints as yours? Who can you meet with, talk to or where can you go for new ideas, or even what can you watch before you do e.g. production and filling lines elsewhere?

Be curious about adventuring back in time too – take a lead in a post-mortem to explore what could have been done differently in past projects that failed but can succeed as learning opportunities.

2. Like Aristotle; the 'thinker' type?

Do you like finding new thinking ideas that can then be rolled out in your own context? If so, find something interesting to think about by adding time for regular reading. Explore subject area’s away from your core subject, ensuring your scope is on “search” over “re-search”. Be open to ideas from other fields e.g. check out broad interest websites like and here’s a book I recommend : “Range” by David Epstein, to encourage you to apply a generalist mind and bring back great ideas to your team. When others are probing into ever more detail, use your wider lens to take in a broader perspective and connect what others may not.

A science Nobel laureate once recommended “grazing widely rather than digging deep” – my older article on this subject:

3. Like Leonardo da Vinci; the 'observer' type?

Are you good at discovering new angles or considerations not yet observed by others? If so, you might spot equipment that can be dual-purposed e.g. an under-utilised hot press machine for bonding one product could test spring-back on a different, 90-degree mould. You can maximise the return on your inventiveness by asking questions like “what else?” and “what now?” regularly. If you are a keen 'observer' type (e.g. auditors tend to be) your perception powers hone in naturally on what is critical. You benefit your team most by studying how others handle similar constraints in different settings e.g. conflicts between space/time; time/temperature; temperature/manipulation. By generalising these principles and lessons for new situations, you can contribute significantly.

4. Like Albert Einstein; the 'solver' type?

Einstein reminded us that we cannot solve problems using the same thinking used to create them. If you are a “solver” type, you excel at applying new thinking to old challenges.

You will spot where past mistakes have been produced by unfounded assumptions so be brave and use a ‘devil’s advocate’ approach at the design stage of new projects to avoid this. You can help your team to start with the end in mind and by keeping a close eye on whether social dynamics are impacting how the problem is framed and defined. Ask questions to ensure your team does not converge too early on what everyone knows.

Start to notice which is your preferred approach and then form teams of different archetypes so you can tap into other peoples’ strengths. Stretch yourself to adopt the practices of all the various styles and enjoy the voyage of discovery to go beyond what we all already know for “wicked learning”.

Let me know how you get on please – as we run creative and critical thinking workshops for teams and want to continue to learn too.


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