Tag Archives: Curiosity

Building a Learn It All Culture

Don’t Be a Know It All

Building a Learn It All Culture

Trying to be a “know-it-all” is a flawed goal.

It is impossible to know everything.

This is by design.

This is by intention.

In much the same way that programming languages have garbage collection built in, the human brain is built to prune. The human brain is built to forget more than it remembers. Instead of trying to override our natural tendencies, we must embrace them and see instead see how they empower us to be continuous learners.

“Garbage collection is the process in which programs try to free up memory space that is no longer used by objects.” — FreeCodeCamp

Where Insights Come From by Braden Kelley

And while knowledge is important, it is perishable, it is transitory, and it is not the highest aspiration.

  1. An understanding of data allows the creation of information
  2. The consumption of information allows the creation of knowledge
  3. The exploration of knowledge allows the creation of insight
  4. The connections between insights allow the creation of wisdom

Curiosity fuels the transformation of data and information into insights and wisdom, while knowledge funnel progression is driven by a quest for efficiency.

Knowledge Funnel

Knowledge FunnelThe knowledge funnel is a useful concept learned from Roger Martin in the Design of Business. The concept highlights how any new area creating information (and hopefully knowledge) starts very much as a mystery, but as our understanding of the topic area increases, we begin to identify heuristics and make sense of it. For me, this is where we begin to move from data and information to knowledge, and then as our knowledge increases we are able to codify this knowledge into algorithms.

Importance of Curiosity to a Learn It All Culture

If you want to build a learn-it-all culture, it all starts with curiosity. Curiosity leads to inquiry, and inquiry leads to learning. The achievement of insights is the ideal outcome for learning pursuits, and insights power innovation.

I’ve been writing about the importance of curiosity and its role in innovation since 2011 or before.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

At an event I attended in New York City in 2011, Peter Diamandis of the XPRIZE Foundation talked about how for him the link between curiosity and innovation is the following:

“What should be possible that doesn’t yet exist?”

In my article Key to Innovation Success Revealed!, on the topic of curiosity I wrote:

The reason that curiosity is the secret to innovation success is that the absence of curiosity leads to acceptance and comfort in the status quo. The absence of curiosity leads to complacency (one of the enemies of innovation) and when organizations (or societies) become complacent or comfortable, they usually get run over from behind. When organizations or societies lack curiosity, they struggle to innovate. Curiosity causes people to ask ‘Why’ questions and ‘What if’ questions. Curiosity leads to inspiration. Inspiration leads to insight. Insights lead to ideas. And in a company or society where invention, collaboration and entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, abilities and practice are encouraged, ideas lead to action.

Five Keys to Building a Learn It All Culture

Change is the one constant, and it is continuous. If it wasn’t, all of us would still be hunting animals and collecting berries. Embracing continuous change and transformation allows us to accelerate our understanding of the universe and how our organizations can serve their missions more effectively and efficiently. Continuous change requires continuous learning. To prepare our people and our organization to succeed at continuous learning we need to do these five things:

1. Develop Good Learning Hygiene

Learning is a skill. To build an organization of continuous or lifelong learners, we must first help people learn how to learn. Two of the most important learning skills that we are not taught how to do in school, but that are crucial for success at innovation and other modern pursuits are the following:

  • Deep Thinking — Few of us are good at deep thinking and as a result, deep learning. Getting people to put all of their devices away is the initial challenge. Feeling comfortable not knowing the answer and sitting at a table with nothing more than a blank piece of paper is really hard. Teaching people how to meditate beforehand can be quite helpful. The goal of course is to get people into the state of mind that allows them to think deeply and capture their idea fragments, nuggets of inquiry and micro-inspirations. This will provide the fuel for collaboration and co-creation and the next key learning skill.
  • Augmented Learning — We live during amazing times, where if we don’t know something we can Google it or ask Siri, Cortana or Alexa. All of the assistants and search engines available to us, serve to quickly augment our human knowledge, skills and abilities. Knowing how to build good search queries is an incredibly powerful life skill. Teach it.

2. Reinforce Growth Mindset Behaviors

There has been much chatter about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. It’s not really a new concept, but instead modern packaging for the level of maturity shown by those successful professionals who are willing to say:

“I don’t know.” and “Let me find out.” and “Failure is an opportunity to learn.”

Two ways organizations can demonstrate their commitment to a growth mindset are to:

  • Celebrate Failure — Create events or other ways to share some of the most important failures of the month or quarter, and what was learned from each.
  • Fund Curiosity — If you’re hiring curious people with a growth mindset, then every employee will be curious about something. Find a way to fund their investigation and exploration of what they’re curious about – even if it is not work-related. This is a great way of demonstrating the importance of curiosity to innovation and your commitment to it.

3. Make Unlearning Socially Acceptable

We all want to be the expert, and we work hard to achieve mastery. Meaning, often we hold on too tightly as new solutions emerge. And, to adopt new ways of solving old problems, often we have to unlearn what we think we know before we can learn the new ways. Smart organizations constantly challenge what they think they know about their customers, potential partners, product-market-fit, and even where future competition might come from.

4. Flex Your Reskilling and Retraining Muscles

With the accelerating pace of change, the organizations and even the countries that invest in reskilling and retaining their employees (or citizens) are the organizations and economies that stand the best chance of continued success. As more organizations commit to being purpose-driven organizations, the costs of recruitment actually increase, making it even more important to keep the employees you attract and to reskill and retrain them as your needs change. Especially as the pace of automation also increases…

5. Create Portable Not Proprietary Knowledge

If you gave an employee ten hours to spend to either:

  • Earn a professional certification
  • Complete company-created employee training

Which do you think most employees would choose?

Sorry, but most employees view company-created trainings somewhat like the dentist. They do it because they have to.

Work with professional associations to influence certification curriculums towards the knowledge, skills and abilities you need.

Find more and better ways of encouraging mentorship.

Invest in internal internship and innovation programs that allow employees to explore the ideas and the other areas of the business they’re passionate about.

Conclusion

Transitioning from a know-it-all to a learn-it-all culture is no small feat and requires commitment and investment at a number of different levels inside the organization. I’ve highlighted the five keys to building a learn-it-all culture inside your organization, but only you can take the keys and unlock these capabilities inside your organization. Now is the time to invest in your learning transformation.

But smart countries will be thinking bigger. Smart countries will be thinking about how they can transform their educational systems to create a continuous learning mindset in their next generation, finance a move from STEM to STEAM, and commit to ongoing worker reskilling and retraining programs to support displaced workers.

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After Hours with Mauro Porcini – PepsiCo’s First Chief Design Officer

After Hours with Mauro Porcini - PepsiCo’s First Chief Design Officer

A short while ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, a multi-billion-dollar American corporation with more than 250,000 employees. It is the second largest food and beverage company in the world, and the largest in North America.

The initial part of this interview focused on how PepsiCo embraces failure and gets to the root of customer needs and can be found on Innovation Leader. But Mauro had so much design and innovation wisdom to share that he agreed to stay after hours and answer more questions.

Mauro Porcini joined PepsiCo in 2012 as its first Chief Design Officer and began infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and leading a new approach to innovation by design across the company’s popular product platforms and brands, as well as new platforms such as Alternative Hydration (water personalization and consumption beyond the bottle) and Spire (Smart Fountains for drinks customization).

The team’s efforts extend from physical to virtual expressions of the brands, and to the company’s focus on sustainability. In the past seven years the PepsiCo design team has won more than 1,000 Design and Innovation awards.

To dive deeper into innovation at PepsiCo I posed the following questions:

Why is innovation important to PepsiCo?

Innovation is an absolutely fundamental, core value at PepsiCo. It’s a key ingredient in the company’s success and continued growth. Our daily work as designers within PepsiCo is to keep our innovation pipeline as human-centered as possible, as well as agile, flexible, reactive and in-tune with global and local trends. This requires a multi-disciplinary effort that involves close collaboration with other functions like R&D, Marketing, Strategy, Consumer Insights, and Manufacturing to ensure we are unlocking the full potential of our brands.

Mauro, I see you’re already connecting innovation and design. Let’s dig into that.

What do you see as the intersection between innovation and design, and why is this intersection important?

Mauro PorciniThe reality is that design and innovation are one and the same. Innovation is all about people. Innovation is about imagining, designing and developing meaningful solutions for people’s needs and wants. As designers, we are trained in three dimensions: human science (desirability), business (viability) and technology (feasibility). In the projects my global design team works on at PepsiCo, we connect these three dimensions to create products, brands, experiences and services that are relevant to the communities we design for. We call this approach “design”; the world often calls it “innovation.”

It’s interesting that you see innovation and design as synonyms where many see design instead as a path to innovation. Let’s explore what it takes to excel at design.

Click here to read the rest of the interview with Mauro Porcini on CustomerThink

Other questions Mauro will answer on CustomerThink include:

  1. What are some of the most important differences between doing design and being a design leader that innovators and designers should be aware of?
  2. What was the impetus, what resistance did you face, and what excited you about this design challenge?
  3. Why is it more important to be in love with your customers than to try and satisfy them?
  4. Do you have any tips for organizations trying to get better at empathy, listening and understanding to become better innovators?
  5. What are you most curious about right now?
  6. What are you working on learning about or mastering right now to help the team?

Images courtesy of PepsiCo


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Every Company Needs an Innovation Coach

Retained InnovationInnovation is not a solo activity. While the rare lone genius may be able to invent something on their own (although still always inspired by others), nobody can innovate by themselves. Innovation, by its very nature, requires collaboration.

Companies are like brains. The brain is composed of two hemispheres. The left brain is typically described as the home to math and logic skills, while the right brain is described as the domain of creativity. Of course people need to develop both hemispheres to be successful, and companies are the same. Achieving operational excellence is the goal of the left brain side of the organization and innovation excellence should be the goal of the right side of the organization. Unfortunately, most organizations over-invest in operational excellence to the point that the organization fights off innovation excellence efforts like a virus.

So, what’s the cure?

Not to get sick in the first place of course!

To achieve that, consider putting an innovation wellness program in place. And what does that look like?

An innovation wellness program has at its center, an organization that is willing to reach outside its four walls for a constant stream of new inspiration. Because it is inspiration in combination with curiosity that will give the organization a fighting chance of identifying ongoing sources of unique and differentiated insights that will allow the organization to continuously reinvent itself and stay in resonance with its customers.

A couple tangible examples of innovation wellness program components include:

  1. Embedding elements of so-called Open Innovation into the core of the organization’s innovation approach rather than existing as a periodic guest
  2. Continuous reinforcement of a curiosity culture
  3. Employment of a part-time innovation coach on an ongoing basis

Robert F BrandsWhat does an innovation coach look like?

Well, one good example was the late Robert F. Brands, who was lost to the global innovation community far too soon. He was a friend, a colleague, a mentor, a partner on work we did for the United States Navy, and he helped me get the book deal for my first five-star book – Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire.

A good innovation coach helps you avoid the ten signs of innovation sickness:

  1. Nobody can articulate your definition of innovation (or you don’t have one)
  2. Nobody can articulate your innovation vision/strategy/goals (or you don’t have them)
  3. People struggle to tell the story of one or more innovations launched to wide adoption by the organization
  4. Most of what passes as innovation inside the organization would actually be classified as improvements (not innovation) by people outside the organization
  5. The organization no longer makes external innovation perspectives available to a wide audience
  6. Nobody takes the time to participate in our innovation efforts anymore
  7. Your organization is unable to accept insights and ideas from outside the organization and develop them into concepts that can be scaled to wide adoption
  8. Innovation program leadership has difficulty getting time on the CEO’s calendar any more
  9. Your innovation team is trying to do all of the innovating instead of helping to accelerate the innovation efforts of others
  10. Your pace of innovation is slower than the organizations you compete with for market share, donations, votes, etc.

A good innovation coach can help you:

1. Perform an innovation assessment

I developed a 50 question innovation audit and made it available in support of my first book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, so that people can do a self-evaluation of their innovation maturity here on my web site. Or if you would like to dig a little deeper into the dynamics of innovation in your organization, I can work with you to do an innovation diagnostic across your organization and/or help you establish a baseline so you can track your innovation maturity progress over time.

2. Establish a Continuous Innovation Infrastructure

Many companies confuse having a New Product Development (NPD) program or a Research & Development (R&D) program with having an innovation program, or are stuck in an ‘innovation as a project’ approach to innovation. A good innovation coach can help you define what innovation can and should mean to your organization, build a common language of innovation, create an innovation vision, establish an innovation strategy that dovetails with your organization’s overall strategy, and develop innovation goals that will help focus the organization’s efforts to realize its innovation vision and strategy.

3. Teach You Some New Innovation Tools, Methods, and Frameworks

A good innovation coach is also a skilled facilitator and can help facilitate innovation off-sites, an effective trainer who can develop the custom courses you need to teach people in the organization new tools, methods, or frameworks to improve or accelerate your innovation capabilities, and is capable of delivering inspirational keynotes to large groups inside your organization to help shift mindsets and help people feel empowered to participate in the innovation efforts of the organization. The best innovation coaches are capable not just of bringing in the tools, methods and frameworks of others, but are also capable of understanding your innovation gaps and creating new innovation tools, methods and frameworks to help you.

4. Help You Identify Insights and Opportunities

Innovation begins with inspiration, and your curiosity and exploration should lead you to identify some good insights to build on and opportunities to pursue. But, because most ideas are really idea fragments, sometimes an innovation coach or other external perspectives can help you identify the gaps in your idea fragment or opportunity identification that might make them more compelling, especially if you aren’t making a conscious use of The Nine Innovation Roles as part of your innovation process to help you avoid innovation blind spots. A good innovation coach can also help you go beyond ideas and help you focus on not just one, but all three keys to innovation success:

  • Value Creation
  • Value Access
  • Value Translation

Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire will help you learn more about each, or you can check out my previous article ‘Innovation is All About Value‘.

5. Tell You Honestly When You’re Going Off Course

A good innovation coach will have the courage to be honest with you and tell you when you’ve lost your way. Over time, many innovation teams tend to come down with shiny object syndrome or its equally evil cousin, launch fever. A competent innovation coach will be able to recognize the change and help you course correct before you pass the point of no return, and put the very existence of your innovation program at risk. A good innovation coach is able to provide a consistent external perspective, a sanity check, and may be able to also help you build external connections to invite in other external perspectives as well.

Wrapping it Up

It is easy to fall in love with the innovation process and program you’ve created. It is equally simple to form attachments to your innovation projects and artifacts and think that you’ve cracked the code, and maybe you have, but wouldn’t you like to keep one toe in the pond outside your organization just to make sure?

Book Innovation Speaker Braden Kelley for Your EventCreating and maintaining a part-time relationship with an innovation coach you trust is a great way to do that. Smart organizations keep a pulse on their level of innovation maturity over time. They’re continuously evolving their innovation infrastructure, building new capabilities, and seeking out external perspectives as a sanity check on their program evolutions over time. So what are you waiting for?

Who’s going to coach your winning innovation team?

Contact me now to set up a free introductory consultation


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Key to Innovation Success Revealed!

Key to Innovation Success Revealed!Achieving innovation success is not easy. Sustaining innovation success is even harder. The list of innovative companies that no longer exist is long, and some of the biggest enemies of innovation are ultimately complacency and resistance to change.

So what is the key to innovation success?

What lies beneath the artifacts of innovation success that we could point to in individuals or companies that we hold up as innovation heroes?

Well, as I tell the audiences of my keynotes, workshops and masterclasses around the world, innovation success rises up from the intersection of invention (which includes creativity), collaboration, and entrepreneurship. This is why you see these topics covered so much here on Human-Centered Change & Innovation.

Innovation is Invention Collaboration Entrepreneurship

Invention

Invention and creativity are incredibly important to innovation, but invention is not innovation and creativity is not innovation. Invention and creativity are but one component to creating successful innovation. And so yes, teaching your employees new creativity tools like SCAMPER or SIT, engaging in brainstorming activities after teaching people how to brainstorm properly, or providing your employees the space and time in their work lives to innovate will help you achieve greater innovation success, but they are not the secret. They are but one part.

Collaboration

There are a number of people traveling through the world of business and innovation literature spreading the myth that people are either innovative or they or not, that people either possess the innovator’s DNA or they don’t. To that I say “hogwash” (or sometimes something a little bit stronger). Innovation is a team sport and we all have a role to play. It is because of this belief that I created the Nine Innovation Roles and this framework for team-based innovation has resonated well with people all around the world. As a result, the Nine Innovation Roles from my book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire have already been translated into Spanish, French, and Swedish, with Dutch and Chinese translations on the way soon. If you’re not familiar with the Nine Innovation Roles, they are:

  1. Revolutionary
  2. Artist
  3. Connector
  4. Magic Maker
  5. Customer Champion
  6. Judge
  7. Troubleshooter
  8. Conscript
  9. Evangelist

But understanding which of the Nine Innovation Roles you play on effective innovation teams is just the beginning. At the same time, we must begin to train our employees in the basic principles that power collaboration and teach them how to become effective collaborators. But collaboration is also only one component.

Entrepreneurship

Other than leadership, no other topic probably occupies a greater percentage of the space for business books in an American book store than entrepreneurship. This topic captivates the minds of people in the United States and in many other countries, and everywhere you go cities, states, countries, universities, and private companies are setting up incubators or startup accelerators to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. This is important, but the importance of entrepreneurship is not limited only to the entrepreneur. At the same time, we must not forget the importance of intrapreneurship to the continuing health of our organizations. In some ways, intrapreneurship is MORE important to the innovation success of a country than entrepreneurship because collaborative, creative intrapreneurship is the flavor of entrepreneurship that keeps a country’s great companies alive (through this innovation intersection of course). Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are both important and we must consciously try to grow both in a successful society, and while intrapreneurs may not have the same tolerance for risk as an entrepreneur, they also need to understand how to make a business case and other core tenets of entrepreneurship.

Build a Common Language of Innovation

The Need to Integrate and Educate

I can state in no uncertain terms the importance for companies that are serious about innovation, and yes even countries or states or cities that are serious about innovation, to educate their people in the core knowledge, skills and abilities that relate to invention, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Companies need to educate their employees. Governments AND parents need to collaborate to teach their children. If you do this, your employees or your future citizens will have a much better chance of helping you achieve innovation success for your company or for your society. But even actively encouraging the intersection of invention, collaboration and entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, abilities and practice are not enough. The reason is because the power of this intersection does not represent the secret of innovation success. This intersection is central to sustained innovation success, but the secret lies elsewhere.

So what is the key to innovation success?

In one word?

The answer is…

CURIOSITY

Importance of Curiosity to InnovationDictionary.com defines curiosity as “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.”

Merriam-Webster defines curiosity as “Desire to know… Inquisitive interest in others’ concerns…Interest leading to inquiry

The reason that curiosity is the secret to innovation success is that the absence of curiosity leads to acceptance and comfort in the status quo. The absence of curiosity leads to complacency (one of the enemies of innovation) and when organizations (or societies) become complacent or comfortable, they usually get run over from behind. When organizations or societies lack curiosity, they struggle to innovate. Curiosity causes people to ask ‘Why’ questions and ‘What if’ questions. Curiosity leads to inspiration. Inspiration leads to insight. Insights lead to ideas. And in a company or society where invention, collaboration and entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, abilities and practice are encouraged, ideas lead to action.

So, if you want to have innovation success in your company or in your society, you must work to create a culture that encourages curiosity instead of crushing it. Unfortunately technology and the educational system in the United States and the rallying cry of “More STEM!” are having the unintended consequence of crushing creativity and creating a generation of trivia experts and linear thinkers for our society. We as parents and educators and managers must as a result seek to undo some of this damage. If you haven’t already read it, I encourage you to check out my article ‘Stop Praying for Education Reform‘.

Key to Innovation Success Revealed!We must find ways to reawaken the curiosity of our employees, to keep them curious, and to keep the curiosity of our children alive. We must find a way to fight against the tyranny of linear thinking and the ‘right’ answer, and instead inspire our children to continue asking ‘why’ – despite the fact that sometimes it can be annoying. 😉

To close I will leave you with a bastardized quote from the most interesting man in the world:

“Stay curious my friend.”

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – April 12, 2012


“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

– Steve Jobs
– Submitted by Lorna Tyrtania


“When you’re playing king of the mountain, you don’t stop playing when you get to the top.”

– Braden Kelley


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

– Albert Einstein
– Submitted by Carlos Torres


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation Curiosity

Innovation Curiosity

I had the opportunity to meet several amazing explorers of land, sea, and space at the announcement of Shell’s sponsorship of the XPrize Foundation’s exploration prize group recently. The explorers they had present at the event included:

  • Richard Garriott, Vice Chair, Space Adventures, Ltd., legendary video game developer and entrepreneur; among first private citizen astronauts to board International Space Station, America’s first second-generation astronaut; and X PRIZE Foundation trustee
  • David Gallo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, renowned undersea explorer, among first oceanographers combining manned submersibles and robots to map ocean world; co-leader of recent Titanic exploration; project leader, successful search for missing Air France Flight 447
  • Mark Synnott, global mountain climber who has climbed some of the biggest rock faces and ice walls on the planet, ventured into among the least-visited locales on earth, photographed the globe’s most spectacular sites; and is a senior contributing editor of Climbing magazine.
  • Chris Welsh is a co-founder of Virgin Oceanic and is an accomplished entrepreneur, sailor and aviator who recently finished 25,000 miles of intense competitive sailing. Chris has made five LA-Hawaii crossings and one LA-Tahiti-Tonga-Auckland-Tasmania crossing.

Encouraging Curiosity

XPrize Mark SynnottI had the opportunity to hear Mark Synnott speak of how despite the enormous risk he undertakes in his climbing explorations, that the thing that scares him most is the possibility of slipping on easy ground. When he is attempting a difficult portion of a climb, he is always thinking about what his exposure to risk is, but on easy portion it is easy to forget to take proper precautions. Yet, when it comes to his kids Mark thinks he is probably one of the world’s most over-protective parents, but at the same time he wants to inspire his kids to be curious about the world.

Gerald Schotman of Shell hopes that the challenges they pursue with the XPRIZE Foundation will stimulate curiosity in children and adults around the world, and that it will help to encourage people (even their own employees) to embrace their explorer mindset.

My conversation with Mark and Gerald led me to think to myself:

I wonder what the role of curiosity is in innovation?

While I was pondering this question, my conversations continued and I probed further to examine the link between curiosity and innovation.

The Role of Curiosity in Innovation

Peter Diamandis of the XPRIZE Foundation talked about how for him the link between curiosity and innovation is the following:

“What should be possible that doesn’t yet exist?”

This is a great question to inspire curiosity and stimulate thinking that could lead to innovation.

Different Approaches to Innovation

XPrize Peter DiamandisPeter Diamandis talked about how we need to ask where a breakthrough should be possible and focus on structuring an innovation challenge to help harness people’s curiosity to push past current obstacles in thinking or execution. Peter has learned first-hand that small teams are amazingly powerful, and talked about how big organizations focus on reducing risk by throwing lots of money and resources at a challenge. On the flip side though, when you put a box around a challenge with a small budget and a small team, then that small team of people will know the traditional approach will fail – and try a different approach.

One of the things that the XPRIZE Foundation does with their challenge prizes is to force people to build and demonstrate something. Ideas are easy and people’s perspectives on what’s possible changes when they have to build and demonstrate their solution.

Challenges uncovered during exploration and execution often prove more challenging to solve than anticipated. Chris Welsh of Virgin Oceanic talked about how both he and James Cameron thought they were working on 18 month projects that for both have turned into 4 to 5 year journeys. For those of you not familiar with Virgin Oceanic’s mission, they are hoping to send one person to the deepest point in each of the world’s five oceans.

Bringing Curiousity Out of Its Shell

When I spoke to Gerald Schotman of Shell about curiosity he spoke about trying to recruit curious people into Shell, leading by example, and attempting to trigger curiosity by setting scary targets:

“If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not being ambitious enough”

Exploration of the Exploitation

XPrize Polar BearWeIn speaking with David Gallo about exploration of the seas, he spoke about how when we oversell a danger like climate change in the media, it is damaging – there is no plastic island the size of Texas in the middle of the ocean. But there is a chemistry change in the ocean, a soup, a film leads to us eating our own garbage as plastic, flame retardants, and other runoff embed themselves in the tissue of the fish we eat. We have changed the temperature and the chemistry of the oceans, and anyone who has an aquarium knows that’s a bad idea.

Xprize Polar BearWe must reduce the runoff into the oceans and stop over-fishing if they are going to be able to help sustain us for the long-term. In the meantime, we must explore more of the oceans that cover 70% of the earth. To date, we have only mapped 5% of the ocean floor, meaning there are huge areas of the ocean that we’ve never been to.

Chris Welsh talked about how at the bottom of the ocean it might be possible to find a liquid CO2 reservoir deep down, and that at its edges we might be able to observe chemosynthesis taking place instead of photosynthesis. There were people talking about underwater rivers, waterfalls, and lakes – all of it a bit challenging for me to understand – but exciting to see where continued exploration of our undersea world might lead.

Expected and Unexpected Outcomes from Exploration

One of the outcomes that we would expect from exploration is the commercialization of some of what we find. In Richard Garriott’s case he has a business selling novel proteins from the ocean floor and crystallized proteins from space.

At the same time, Chris Welsh talked about the recovery of rock life from 30 meters within the rock at the bottom of the ocean and how this microbial was 140 million years old and had been consuming the sulphur out of the rock. Then Russ Conser of Shell added that most oil comes not from plants and dinosaurs but from microbial life.

Meanwhile, one of Mark Synnott’s stories was from a National Geographic climb of a cliff in the Amazon rainforest where they discovered nine new species living on the cliff face – including a giant green earthworm. I’m not sure anyone expected that. And that is the thing about exploration. If you don’t explore, you don’t know what you’ll miss finding or what further discoveries a single exploration might lead to because of the curiosity it stimulates.

Final Thoughts on Curiosity

After spending the day amazed at some of the things these people are exploring and discovering, I think I crystallized my thoughts on the link between curiosity and innovation that I wondered about at the beginning of this article, and here it is:

Curiosity drives invention, invention empowers innovation, and innovation delivers increased value to our lives.

So, if we want to increase the volume of innovation in our organizations and societies, we need to inspire and foster curiosity in our employees, citizens, and children. But more than that, we need to encourage people to explore in the areas they are curious about. From that exploration, discoveries will take place that could change the world.

This leaves us with three final questions:

  1. What are you curious about?
  2. What are they curious about?
  3. What can you provide that would help them pursue their curiosity?

Xprize Group Photo

Image credits: Braden Kelley, XPrize

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