Questions, Curiosity and Learning


I was watching a cartoon series with my kid, and it was interesting to see a part where a tiger was questioning his father about all the things he is seeing from the car. The kid was curious and wanted to know all about things. Kid was a good observer. But as we grow up, we stop being curious and lack motivation to learn about anything. We are interested about saving money and taking care of problems at hand. But to solve a problem we need to be curious.

Problems look different at outset. But with a focused intent to solve them, problems start to look different. We need to be inquisitive about all matters. This enables us to understand the essence of the problem and apply appropriate fix.

5 Why’s

I found this example from Toyota-Myanmar. It requests its employees to question “Why” in all matters.

I figured that if you need something to be done, you should start by knowing what are you solving. To know what are you solving, you should keep digging until you see the baseline. Let me give you an example,

I am spending a lot, so I want to start saving.

Above statement is reasonable one, you cannot start saving without knowing where you are spending your money.

  • You start looking at your expenses, and you see my electricity bill is high.
  • You start to question “why?”, you will see you keep lights on at night. You ask, “Why lights are on at night?”, you will see you work at nights till 1 am.
  • “ why you work till 1 am ?” , you will see you prepare for your exams,
  • “why you prepare at night ?” , you will hit a light bulb moment, that you can prepare in the morning before everyone wakes up, and that avoids lights at nights and that saves the electricity cost.

This when you apply for all expenses, you try to hit the primitive issue or root cause. By knowing the issue, we solve or mitigate it. This way has proven effective for me in recent times to ask 5 whys every time for all matters or at-least to important ones. You keep digging not for gold, but to find the truth.

“The basis of Toyota’s scientific approach is to ask why five times whenever we find a problem … By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.“ Taiichi Ohno

In my role, we start by thinking it is a technical issue, but when we dig few turn out to be human or process issues.


We are born Curious

I keep getting questions from my kid without a break. She is curious to know why we do what we do. Like she questions, “why we brush ?” , “why I can’t go without shoes ?”. Few I answer, Few it made me wonder. She is questioning the practices. She is asking why god is in temples and churches and not in our home. It made me wonder.

Curiosity is important for Learning, Innovation, Creativity. It peaks at age 4 and 5 and starts to decline as we age. As research shows, curiosity enables

  • Few decision-making errors
  • Lower group conflicts
  • Open Communication
  • Improves team performance
  • High productivity with self-motivated individuals

But we stop asking “Why?” Questions as we age. Few are fostering curiosity and encouraging people around.


Open Mindset and Humility

Being experts and experienced makes us close minded and rely on experiences from the past. This stops us from exploring future opportunities with open mindedness. This results in bad performances.

Experience blended with Curiosity and Humility, promotes learning and better results.

When we utilize our experience with humility, we learn and encourage others around us. Questioning is the only way to expand our knowledge base and when it is combined with humility, it becomes powerful. This applies for both personal and professional life.

A Cup of Tea

I want to end this article with a zen story about cup of tea. It goes like this, — Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” —

Way to learn things out in this world, is first to get rid of your opinions and speculations. One way to get rid of opinions and preconceived ideas is to ask questions and looking to learn from it.

Be curious and be learning, despite your age.

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