Our productivity depends on innovation. And innovation depends on intense curiosity – the quest to find out: “Is there a way to do this better/cheaper/faster?” This question prompted Jeff Bezos to create Amazon, Michael Dell to start Dell Computer and Niklas Zennström to organize Skype. Asking “Why” prompted Sean Moore to invent the Crescent Rod, a curved shower curtain rod; Chip Wilson to found Lululemon Athletica, a quality yoga clothing supplier; and four Harvard students to invent Soccket – a soccer ball that generates electrical power for poor families through kinetic energy. In her book “The Power of Why” business journalist Amanda Lang reveals how asking “Why?” can fuel innovation and promote a spirit of inquiry in your workplace. She offers valuable insights and excellent case histories. Her findings have helped executives and people from all sorts of life to be innovative and productive.
Innovation depends on “divergent thinking” – seeing the world differently than everyone else. It requires constantly asking the two essential questions – “Why?” and “Why not?” – that children rely on to try to understand the world. Make these questions an integral part of your lexicon. Although life may suppress most adults’ curiosity, research shows anyone can rekindle it. Being curious means thinking like a child and asking questions without self-consciousness. It means maintaining an open mind by staying clear of conventional wisdom and preconceived notions. Accept that your thinking might be entirely wrong. Never settle for the first facile answer. Play with a problem. Treat each issue as a new puzzle. Attempt different approaches, and persevere until you find the ideal solution. Having an open mind means enjoying thinking creatively and satisfying your curiosity.