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Curiosity: The Key to Innovation

Two Sundays ago I set out to a local bookstore to pick up some Christmas gifts for my niece and nephew. As is almost always the case when I enter a bookstore, I end up engrossed with the shelves displaying the latest books. While I left the store without the items I had intended to buy, I had a book that has left me reflecting and thinking constantly ever since.

The book, The Power of Why by Amanda Lang, is a quick and powerful read that focuses on the importance and power of asking questions. She argues that it is curiosity that truly drives innovation and that innovation is far easier to attain than we think. While Lang recognizes that one requires creativity in order to innovate, she argues that this creativity doesn’t need to be the ‘Big C’ creativity of a Steve Jobs, but that ‘70% of creativity depends more on environment, attitude, mindset, and exposure to enrichment than on one-in-a-million ability’.

Lang comments on the need for schools to ensure that they are not regularly rewarding students for coming up with the correct answers, as this begins to build a fear in many about giving the wrong ones. The key is that ‘curiosity requires the courage to risk being wrong’.

Imagine my enthusiasm as I read, knowing that at St. Clement’s School our mission is to develop outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate. Lang’s comment about one’s capacity for innovation is that “all you really need is the courage to ask questions and to embrace the answers, whether or not they are to your liking.”

This isn’t necessarily an easy thing for any of us- it takes us out of our comfort zones and requires us to consider divergent perspectives. Even more unsettling is the need to embrace the results that may come from these divergent perspectives. This, Lang points out, ‘requires an appetite for risk’. What is also highlighted is the requirement for humility, as it can be unsettling to have to admit that one may not have all the answers.

There is  much going on at St. Clement’s these days, where we are encouraging staff and students alike to be curious, to ask questions and to focus on the importance of divergent thinking.

While my trip to the bookstore did not result in my getting what I had intended, it was a fruitful outing indeed and….there’s still time to pick up some presents for my niece and nephew!

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