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What can you learn about curiosity from a 5th grader?
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Authored by Eric Budd

Dr. Deming wrote, “The most important figures needed for management of any organization are unknown and unknowable.” Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis (p. 20). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

He also wrote, “One can not be successful on visible figures alone. Now of course, visible figures are important. There is payroll to meet, vendors to pay, taxes to pay; amortization, pension funds, and contingency funds to meet. But he that would run his company on visible figures alone will in time have neither company nor figures. Actually, the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable (Lloyd S. Nelson, p. 20), but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.” Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis (p. 121). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

You will probably never see curiosity listed on a balance sheet or displayed on a Daily Management Board, yet without curiosity, there is a good chance that your innovation and improvement efforts would evaporate.

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Nurturing the existence and expression of curiosity in the workplace is a vital function for managers.

What sort of price tag can be placed on the value of questions such as, “What would happen if we ran it this way? How could we test that? Why do we do it that way? What if we tried it with those customers?”

The fifth graders in Mrs. Julia Sievwright’s Pinewood Community School, Eagan MN, classroom were asked two questions about curiosity. Here are some of their answers.

Q: What is curiosity?

  • Curiosity means being interested in new things, and also trying to find out for yourself and discovering. It is a question that you may not know but you are excited to go for it with on adventure that goes for it

  • Curiosity is wondering or thinking about something.

  • Curiosity can also mean focusing on one thing until you think you figured it out.

  • Curiosity is having a question about something and wanting to figure it out.

  • Curiosity is being interested on many different levels. One big one is life.

  • Curiosity can also mean being very interested in a lot of things.

  • Thinking about something and testing it.

Q: What does curiosity do for you?

  • It can make you learn. Like if you’re curious about a subject at school then do it. Then you will be proud of yourself. Curiosity is everything. If Albert Einstein did not invent the math problem e=mc2

  • What would the world be like? Every day curiosity is born. That’s why we have inventors. That’s why we have engineers, because of curiosity.

  • Well, I was curious about snails and that led me to write a report about them for my teacher. It makes me do stuff that I normally would not do because I have a lot of curiosity.

  • Curiosity can kill the cat or save your life.

  • It can make you happy and to go out of your way to hear or see something. And maybe if you smell something really good you will want to look for what you are smelling.

Mrs. Sievwright’s fifth graders’ insights into curiosity are profound. According to them, curiosity helps us wonder about something, want to learn about it and then share what we’ve learned with others.

Curiosity drives invention and exploration.

Nurturing the existence and expression of curiosity in the workplace is a vital function for managers. Yet because is it one of those unknown and unknowable figures, it gets little attention from those who insist that everything worth managing must be quantifiable.

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Curiosity is a keystone for learning.

Learning drives increased knowledge. Increased knowledge is required to produce improvement and innovation in product, service, process, and system. Without improvement, organizations stagnate and their interactions with the ever‐changing world around them calcify.

As Adna, age 10, wrote, “curiosity can make me change the world...” Only those managers who appreciate the value of the unquantifiable will have a chance to change their world.

Tina M