Throughout my career as a behavioral expert, assistant professor, and speaker about human behavior, individuals and students have asked this question:
“Are curiosity and creativity the same thing? And if not, how are they related?”
Given the frequency of the question and the intensity of the discussions that have followed, and given that this book is about curiosity, I feel compelled to address this question.
Creativity or innovation is perhaps what CEOs seek most in their employees. Innovation is the key to competitive advantage, which is the key to survival. Today’s product is only as good as tomorrow’s newer and better version. How many times have we heard analysts ask, “When will Apple introduce a newer version of its iPhone?” Yes, today’s product is yesterday’s news. We want to know what’s next.
To better understand the link between curiosity and innovation, I researched work by Gregory Mirzayantz, an author, blogger, and all-round commentator on the human condition. (Get ready for a mind warp and an intellectual game of Twister) .
When asked “Are curiosity and creativity the same thing?” Mirzayantz used his best deductive logic and posed this response:
“If curious people are always creative, but creative people are not always curious, then curiosity drives creativity.”
But if curious people are not always creative, and creative people are always curious, then creativity drives curiosity.
What does that trail of inquiry have to do with curiosity and innovation?
Joe Calloway, a business author, consultant, and speaker whose clients range from Coca-Cola and Verizon to Cadillac and American Express, said, “I really believe that curiosity is like a muscle that must be used in order to stay strong.”
Mike Federle, CEO of Forbes  states that you should:
- “Add something unexpected to your regular routine. Walk a different route to work, study a subject of which you think you have little interest, examine your inner voice, and understand the narratives you create about yourself.”
Scott DuPont, of the DuPont family believes this is a good tip:
- “Keep a pen and paper handy or the voice recorder on your smart phone and capture the thoughts that come to your mind—those you are curious about and may want to explore!”
Position yourself with something that captures your curiosity, something that you’re a missionary about.
To get out of this mind-twisting labyrinth and closer to understanding the relationship between curiosity and innovation, I introduce you to Faisal Hoque. Hoque is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Shadoka, a firm dedicated to creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. He is also the author of Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability . In his book, he wrote, “Experiences are the fuel of creativity; and curiosity is the thirst which drives those new experiences.’’
Aha! This clarifies the issue.
It all begins with our curiosity. Curiosity then leads us to experiences, and those experiences then lead to creativity. So, according to Hoque, it is curiosity that drives our creativity.
Psychotherapist Diana Pitaru  takes the view that the relationship between creativity and curiosity is symbiotic. She said that the two must work hand-in-hand, that is, without one (curiosity), you can’t have the other (creativity). Thus, if our creativity heavily depends on our curiosity, then where would original and valuable ideas come from if curiosity didn’t exist?
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi  has some insight. This Hungarian biochemist won the Nobel Prize for discovering vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle. He said, “Discovery exists when you look at the same thing as everyone else and think something different. That isn’t easy.” He was known to have loved the scene in the movie Dead Poet’s Society when Robin Williams’ character climbed on his desk and asked his students, “Why am I standing on my desk? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
England’s Great Ormond Street Hospital
Innovation many times comes from the least likely sources. England’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, which treats heart patients, was experiencing an inordinate number of casualties when patients were being transferred from one unit to another. One of the physicians was watching a Formula One race and was particularly impressed by how quickly and efficiently the pit crews serviced everything, mistake-free, in seven seconds or less.
So, he invited Formula One racing teams to come in and view the hospital’s transfer procedures, and then make observations based on their own procedures. The three-step process recommended by the racing teams, once implemented, reduced the hospital’s errors by more than 50 percent.
Toyota, the Japanese car manufacturer, constantly looks to its employees for innovation. It expects them to offer as many as 100 suggestions a year on how to improve processes. Similarly, Google allows up to twenty percent of an employee’s time to be dedicated to curiosity and innovation. Each of them, like the Formula One pit crews, believe that by focusing on the small things, the big things take care of themselves.
As Rupal Bhadu once said “If necessity is the mother of invention, then curiosity is its father” .
In the next step we will expand on this concept and delve into innovation and invention.
Some of my favourite TED talks include those by Sir Ken Robinson and George Land (see related links below). They both focus on creativity. Their research correlates with my research on curiosity, where we all found levels start to decline around the time we enter the education system.
How has your educational experience impacted your level of curiosity and creativity?
As always, share your comments with your fellow learners below!
In the next step we will be focusing on innovation and invention. To be innovative means coming up with new methods, ideas, or products which requires asking questions and challenging the status quo. Does this require a high level of curiosity?
1. Mirzayantz G. Experiment [Internet]. Quora. 2015 [cited 9 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-relationship-between-curiosity-and-creativity
2. Mike Federle [Internet]. Forbes. 2020 [cited 9 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikefederle
3. Hoque F. Everything connects. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2014.
4. Pitaru D. Keys to Creativity: Curiosity [Internet]. Psych Central.com. 2015 [cited 9 September 2020]. Available from: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/unleash-creativity/2015/01/curiosity
5. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1937 [Internet]. NobelPrize.org. [cited 9 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1937/szent-gyorgyi/biographical
6. If Necessity Is the Mother of Invention Then Curiosity Is the Father Essay - 425 Words. StudyMode. 2012 [cited 9 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.studymode.com/essays/If-Necessity-Is-The-Mother-Of-1163416.html