Then I met my friends Clara’s and Vic’s cat Chester. Beyond his cuteness and cuddliness-on-demand - his demand - there is something special about him.
Chester certainly is interested in food, attention and affection, and so, so much more. He is never indifferent. His curiosity is endless. He is interested in chasing his tail as if it’s a separate living being and not an appendage. In climbing the Christmas tree to see what treasures or treats might lurk in the branches only to get stuck and meow for assistance. In pawing at every bag and box wondering if it contains food or toys, or something that he can turn into either. In every nook and cranny that leads him to get stuck in the three-inch space between the refrigerator and counter. In the photo above he’s finding wonder in a moment of either self-recognition or self-reflection staring at a portrait of him and his big sister Chunky.
All these observations made me realize what’s so special about Chester. He is perpetually curious. A lifetime learner. There are lessons in that for all of us humans.
If only more humans had that thirst of curiosity, a powerful elixir that has sometimes changed the world:
- We may still be living in darkness after sunset if Benjamin Franklin wasn’t curious enough to fly a kite in a thunderstorm in 1752.
- Millions of lives have been saved because Alexander Fleming was curious about the properties of mold and accidentally stumbled upon penicillin, the world’s first anti-biotic.
- Our cars and phones give us directions on GPS because the U.S. Department of Defense was curious about how it could use satellites to track submarines.
- Many can work from anywhere now, connect with each other immediately and research answers to just about anything with just a click or two because of Tim Berner-Lee’s curiosity about whether the military communications system the ARPANET could be turned into something that everyone in the world can use to make their lives easier – the INTERNET.
Though it may seem pollyannish, what would happen if people are curious enough to ask themselves one simple question about any issue, and then follow-up to find the answer:
- I wonder why they feel/act that way?
Curiosity also has great benefit in a business context. Companies – large and small – invest time, effort and capital to bring products or services to market, which leads to inherent bias that they are truly unique or the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sometimes they have decided for their customers and prospects what they think they would like.
Some of the strongest brands in the world have had an “ivory tower” mentality that "if we build it, they will buy it." The world’s most-recognized brand Coke launched “New Coke” in the mid-1980s and failed miserably as its loyal customers asked for a return of the original Coke (now Coke Classic). In the mid-2000s, Google thought it could just build the “Google+” platform and its many search users would migrate from Facebook because of the power of Google. Both failed to be curious about their customers and ask another simple question:
- What do you think about this?
All it takes is curiosity. An intent to learn more than you know today. A desire to understand even if you don’t believe in another point of view.
Chester’s curious. Be like Chester.