How to be more curious

I am by nature a curious person. I spend a lot of time trying to answer questions, which is why I love my job and what has contributed to my success as a tech journalist. One term that was popular was “life-long learner” (as I wrote about this term in relation to my non-retirement strategy back in 2021) but I think curiosity is a better description. I noticed that many analysts looking at our AI-enabled future have called attention to this skill as something we will need to cultivate and develop. So in this post, I want to examine what it will take to train folks to become more curious.

Before you do any formal training, it helps to understand what type of learner that you are. We all learn in different ways: some of us have to go through the actual experience — these people respond better to tactile situations. Others learn better through more visual or auditory cues and need materials specializing in these methods.

How do you figure this out? One way is to take this short online quiz to find out which style you are. Once armed with this data, you should focus your attention on situations that offer those types of materials so you can learn things your way and retain it better. For example, if you are an auditory learner, you may wish to listen to recorded lectures or presentations. This is a boon for online webinars, where you can stop, rewind, and replay the key portions. In some cases, you might want to take notes, or recite what was just said to fix the concepts in your mind.

If you are more of a visual learner, then by all means be sure that you look carefully at the study materials. Use charts, maps, movies, notes and flashcards. Practice visualizing or picturing words/concepts in your mind. Finally, if you are a tactile learner, think about ways that you can involve more of your senses besides just watching a particular lecture. Make study sheets and refer to them often.

But knowing how you learn is just one part of your journey. Next comes having the right motivations. I have been lucky to be a self-starter and get myself motivated, whether that involves writing one of these essays or tackling a more in-depth project. Sometimes, just seeking knowledge isn’t enough. If you’re not that motivated to learn, find someone who’s also interested in becoming more curious. That link will take you to other suggestions on how to become more curious. Here is another resource, posted on the site Natural Training, which describes the ten most common habits of curious people. Things like listening without judging, willing to be wrong, and staying in the moment are all important skills to acquire.

I was thinking about this when I read something that Naomi Wu, a Chinese maker, said recently about how the education of Asian students has to change. “The key skill- prompting, asking questions. Is something our kids are generally not taught and are often quite poor at. I’d even say it’s discouraged. The ability to ask good questions becomes incredibly important with AI.” I saw this first-hand when I gave lectures in Singapore and Japan years ago: I had to seed the audience with someone who was willing to ask the first question to break the ice.

ChatGPT For DummiesLongtime freelancing colleague Pam Baker’s forthcoming book on ChatGPT, has more tips on how to become an expert at using these tools. She told me, “Many worry that ChatGPT will erode the critical thinking skills of users. But that’s not likely because the most successful users will employ advanced critical thinking skills in forming prompts. The key is not in what you say to the machine, but in how you say it.” She tells me she is also putting together classes on LinkedIn Learning on the topic too.

I was thinking how fortunate I have been in my job as a freelance journalist. I have been able to to call up all sorts of people and ask them questions about their lives and jobs, as I wrote about ten years ago when I described two of my sources in this blog post on how to question everything. The two people had an insatiable curiosity for the unknown, to be constantly learning something new, and figuring out how the world works. While that extreme case of hyper-curiosity might not be your cup of tea, it might make you more motivated to become more curious about something.

3 thoughts on “How to be more curious

  1. The auditory/visual/tactile distinction also applies to problem solving. Auditory solvers (about 40% of us) need to learn with words and then TALK out a problem (even talking to the dog works); visual solvers (about 40% of us) need to learn by images and then THINK out a problem (without someone talking at them at the same time); and tactile solvers (about 20% of us) need to learn by doing something and then MANIPULATE something (doodle, connect paperclips, stack Jenga) to trigger the solution to the problem. So, in a meeting intended to solve a problem, the facilitator/chair/leader must a) arrange for the problem to be framed in both words and images (for sure) and a model (if practical); b) allow time to talk through the problem, AND a break for participants to quietly think about the problem, AND lots of stuff on the table for people to fiddle with. In the end the best solutions will be a combination of the ideas from the three types of problem solvers. The most amusing caveat is that the auditories and the visuals will SWEAR that the tactiles are not paying attention as they doodle or play with stuff, then eventually seemingly out of nowhere the tactiles pop up with a creative insight/perspective/approach that NO ONE else considered!

  2. Hello David,

    Nice, short, thought-provoking article as always.

    As a (hopefully one of a number of) reader with an educational background I would be letting you down if I didn’t point this out: The simple fact is nobody ‘needs’ learning materials presented in a particular format, although each of us has some preference for how we engage in learning. That’s the grain of truth that often elicits the ‘yes, but’ response when confronting the die-hard believers. Don’t stand for any of it!

    On the main topic, LLMs are prompting a lot of discussion throughout the educational world right now. It’s not just Asian teachers who are going to have radically to change how they work.

    All the best,


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