Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Curiosity Factor

I have written numerous posts on the subject of status quo and how it is restraining innovation in corporations.  I have referenced Derrida’s theory of Deconstruction; Dr. Seuss’s The Waiting Place; and Darwin’ssurvival theory.  Today I am going to share additional wisdom from British inventor James Dyson – curiosity.    

Read On:
James Dyson’s claim to fame is the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner.  Before moving into industrial engineering, James studied interior design.  Merging the two fields of study, in the late 1970’s, he conceived the concept of using cyclonic separation to create a superior vacuum cleaner.  It is documented that James developed 5,127 prototypes.  Because he was unsuccessful in his attempts to sell his idea to major manufacturers, he established his own company in 1992.  In addition to being a market leader in vacuum cleaners in over fifty countries, Dyson Ltd. also manufacturers hand dryers, fans and heaters.

Recently I read an interview with James Dyson.  When asked about what type of people he likes to surround himself with on his team he indicated the following: “I like people that are going to take risks and who are not afraid of failure.  Our education system teaches us that we’ve got to come up with the right answers.  Experience tells us what the right answers are.  However the world is constantly changing.  Consequently, we have to develop new solutions, our own way of dealing with each new situation we encounter.”  James went on to detail that curiosity is an important characteristic trait which he values in people.  “When I interview people, I always inquire about the interviewee’s private life.  Recently one individual indicated that he writes books about philosophy while he is commuting.  To me he demonstrated he was curious about the culture/society in which he lives.” 

I reflected about Mr. Dyson’s interview.  How true!  When you are at a conference or a networking event, do people really ask you that second or third question, or are they too busy delivering their elevator speech?  When you are in a team meeting, when was the last time you witnessed someone pop the question, “Why do we keep doing it this way?”  Regarding the subject of social media, how many of your peers truly recognize that it is here to stay as a new tool for business collaboration, thus demonstrate the curiosity to learn more and fully engage?

Is it time for your organization to embrace the curiosity factor?  Suggestion: Start by hanging signs in your conference rooms that read: “There are no bad ideas!”


  1. WORD. Americans have been trained and conditioned to be risk averse for fear of failure. That is different from being conditioned to win. Dyson has that wrong. But he is right that being curious and interested will shift you away from viewing everything as a competition and toward succeeding by doing. PS: I want one of those Dyson fans. They are brilliant.

  2. Hi Jim,

    I assume this will come as no surprise that of all the posts you've shared with me, this has to be one of my favourites.

    Thanks for pointing it out.