Those who pursue a post-secondary education in art, design, architecture, science and the like, will find that studio-based classes emphasize exploration, experimentation and prototyping, which, in turn, rekindle one’s sense of curiosity. Here one learns what I call the five tenets of curiosity: observation, inquiry, challenge, exploration and risk-taking.
If curiosity leads to creativity, and creativity leads to innovation, then it makes sense that we can teach people to be innovative. We need to start this process with young children, while their sense of curiosity is still alive. We can give them the tools they need to make them more innovative in whatever they pursue later, whether it is art, design, science, law, business, politics, etc.
During the 2010 Design Thinkers conference in Toronto, I asked Christopher Chapman, the global creativity & innovation director at The Walt Disney Company, what had spurred his curiosity when he was young. He immediately cited the one-hour-a-week Creative Learning Resource (CLR) class he took in elementary school, in Chicago. It focused on individual and team projects, the kind that had no right or wrong solution, but encouraged discussion, exploration and experimentation. He recalled fondly the challenge of constructing a bridge out of just Popsicle sticks and glue. That one class, he says, established a way of problem solving that has stayed with him ever since.
There is also much to be learned from the Montessori system and its unique approach to education. It places a high value on curiosity and “seeks to develop children into naturally curious young adults through self-guided learning.” Our elementary school curricula are already heavy with courses that demand either right or wrong answers. Why can’t there be a one-hour-a-week class that is built around the concept of “what-if” answers? A class that promotes inventive solutions to problems and rewards a student’s willingness to try. A class where curiosity is embraced, nurtured and championed.