What will be the future of battery technology? How can grass sequester carbon? What is the uncanny valley? Coffee Social is all about curiosity. And when you are curious, the world is a bounty of wonders.
I have a ten-year-old daughter, so I think a lot about education. It is easy to worry that our schools will not properly prepare our children for their future careers. But then I look around and I see a thriving community of people making their way in a world so rapidly changing that technology ubiquitous today did not even exist when I left high school. Seriously. The word “internet” is not in the dictionary my mom gave me for graduation. And can you imagine doing business now without it? Smart phones, websites, blogs, twitter, email, big data, and thousands of other tools we use to make our work possible we’ve had to learn on the fly.
The key to success in an every changing world is curiosity. Luckily, we’re born with it. There’s a fascinating TED talk about how babies think by psychologist Alison Gopnik. “Babies and young children are like the R&D division of the human species,” she explains. In Rachel Carson’s beautiful book The Sense of Wonder, parents are encouraged to help, not hinder, their children’s engagement with the natural world. Get dirty in a mud puddle, get wet in the ocean, go out into the night, watch, listen, touch.
When you are curious, you pay attention, you ask questions, you think critically and creatively, you are motivated by the intrinsic joy of discovery and learning. The trick is to hold on to our curiosity as we get older. At a recent iHub Accelerator program we examined the skills of an innovator: questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking. This sounds a lot like a curious child. But do our classrooms encourage these behaviors? Often not. Practicing these skills can be loud, messy, unpredictable, and unquantifiable. Much more like PLAY than WORK.
When I graduated from high school in 1989 did my teachers know we would be able to hold the world’s knowledge in the palm of our hand within decades? Our children will most likely live in a world just beyond our imagination. The challenges and opportunities that will face them will require creativity and adaptability. Being curious will not only make that world easier to navigate, but will make the navigating fun and the WORK feel like PLAY. That’s what I want for my daughter.
Published May 22nd, 2015