The Seven Veils of Curiosity and 10 Benefits of Embracing it in Your Culture

by Diane Berenbaum

According to the Oxford Dictionary, curiosity is “a strong desire to know or learn something.” And, it’s innate, so it is in all of us…even if we don’t consider ourselves very creative at all. Whether we realize it or not, we are all curious to some degree. We move along a continuum throughout our days and our lives, demonstrating different degrees of curiosity along the way.

So, why are we particularly curious when we’re young? According to research, it's the joy of exploration—a hidden force that drives learning, critical thinking, and reasoning. We recognize it in children when we see them explore their environment, become fascinated with small objects and creatures, devour books and ask endless questions (particularly “why” questions).

The Power of Curiosity

It turns out that curiosity has the “power to change behavior for the better,” no matter your age, according to an American Psychological Association study. The research showed that “piquing people’s curiosity can influence their choices by steering them away from tempting desires, like unhealthy foods or taking the elevator, and toward less tempting, but healthier options, such as buying more fresh produce or taking the stairs.”

Evan Polman, PhD, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an author of that study noted that, “It also provides new evidence that curiosity-based interventions come at an incredibly small cost and could help steer people toward a variety of positive actions.”

Most studies show that curiosity is a positive trait. For example, a positive relationship between curiosity and creativity has been found (Vidler, 1977). Curiosity has also been identified as a major motivation for great accomplishments. Robert Hoffman reported that intellectual curiosity is the highest rated motivating factor in doctors since the 1920's. It can also predict adjustment and success, as well as a reproductive trait; one that is looked for in a mate!

Are you Incurious?

Some of us, however, are incurious. Yes, it’s a word; and according to Merriam-Webster, it means “lacking a normal or usual curiosity; uninterested.” In fact, we all lose curiosity of varying degrees with age. So, what can you do to prevent that from happening?

According to the site, Curious Mind, a healthy vibrant curiosity is innate to us all. Yet, teaching it is not the key to rediscovering or enhancing it. Instead, it is about minimizing the issues that veil it, so our curiosities emerge. In other words, removing those veils nurtures and strengthens our curiosity. And, practicing the behaviors that nurture curiosity can strengthen it.  

Rediscover Your Innate Curiosity through the Seven Veils

Curious to know the names of those veils? I won’t leave you in suspense. Below are the seven veils of incuriosity and their counterparts. So, be wary of cultures that favor…  

  1. Answers over Questions

  2. Certainty ahead of Novelty

  3. Compliance over Skepticism

  4. Competition more than Collaboration

  5. Ego ahead of Humility

  6. Extrinsic Rewards over Intrinsic Motivation

  7. Fear more than Hope

These seven veils serve several purposes:

  • They can strengthen our psychological health, when they’re kept in check by their counterparts.  

  • They can be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and sometimes healthier decisions.

  • Results also suggest that using interventions based on curiosity gaps “has the potential to increase participation in desired behaviors for which people often lack motivation” (e.g. exercising). These curiosity-based interventions come at an incredibly small cost and could help steer people toward a variety of positive actions.”  

But, according to the study referenced above and presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, the pendulum can swing too far the other way—that’s when incuriosity (lack of concern or interest), as well as reactivity and pessimism, can run rampant.

10 Benefits of Embracing Curiosity in your Corporate Culture

Why instill curiosity in your organization? Below are 10 benefits of embracing curiosity in your corporate culture:

  1. Help you make better decisions

  2. Inspire discovery and learning

  3. Encourage you to be more receptive to input

  4. Embolden your spirit

  5. Instill new life, energy or vigor into your work

  6. Shine light on new opportunities

  7. Differentiate you from others inside or outside your organization

  8. Increase your receptivity to input from external or internal customers

  9. Create new and different products/services to meet your clients’ needs and wants

  10. Enhance your ability to empathize, and listen without judgment.

“Curiosity not only makes the world interesting, it makes you interesting. Embrace it.”
                  Kate Berardo,

Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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