The importance of staying curious

December 7, 2015

Ever wondered why a child always succeeds in his deeds?
Because, a child is always curious.

By success, I am not talking about reaching a positive conclusion of a given task in the way we adults perceive. The success, here, is all about performing an act and achieving a result. Any result for that matter – the motto is to learn and move on to the next endeavour. For a child, the journey is paramount, and the outcome is an eventuality. Children are eternally curious, and that is what drives them. In their world, learning from the result of an action matters, nothing else. This seemingly simple, unassuming and fundamental trait is what a lot of us lose as we grow up into adults. What we miss realising is that one never fails for being curious. The result sometimes might hurt a bit, but the bliss and knowledge it gives is priceless. Being curious is the single most important quality that everyone should retain and nurture forever. And in a profession like designing, being curious is a must.

I think every grown-up must ‘relearn’ two aspects from a child and his curiosity – ask questions and experiment fearlessly.

Why ask Questions?

I often see people hesitating to ask questions. I am not indicating that they are not curious. It could be the possibility of a temporary embarrassment that an act of curiosity might result into, which makes us take a step backwards. We don’t want to end up looking like someone who doesn’t know ‘simple little things’. Instead of asking questions, we assure ourselves that we can ‘figure out’. While ‘figuring out’ could be some experimentation, it would be sensible if we keep ourselves well informed before we start experimenting. Because the fact is, those ‘simple little things’ might turn out into the most complex ones if they are not understood and addressed appropriately. The best way to stay informed is to ask questions and get clarified.

So next time, when you are in a customer meeting or conducting a User interview, don’t just sit there with an expression of I-understand-everything. Stop assuming things and start asking questions. Accept the fact that not knowing about something is not a sin and it would not end you up in a dreaded prison.

Once you are done with your questions, and get answers, you know the ground reality of where to start and how to start. You now know, how much information is readily available and how much needs to be dug out. You can fill all those gaps with a good deal of research, which again is driven by curiosity.

Experiment, without fear

Expression of thought should never get restricted by a boundary called as fear-of-failure

For a designer, it is vital to stay away from fear-of-failure. There would be cases when the regular design patterns and approaches might not work. Then you must explore and push boundaries. You must not hesitate to interpret something visually in a new way. Whenever you can, experiment with a new style or layout and test it with your users. You might fail, but that failure teaches you something. And, more importantly, you would never fail in the very same context again. Simply because you ‘learnt’ first-hand about an eventuality called as the result. The good thing is, it stays with you forever.

So, explore, express and stay curious – forever.

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