The Curious Paradox of Curiosity as a Learning Enabler

This is the abstract for a paper I am currently writing for a conference on The Future of Learning - What excites me about the notion of curiosity as an area for study is that it is an arena which is so often spoken of as something which re-enervates but is also an area which has so many conflicting opinions about what really consitiutes its becoming.

I suppose that if one is going to undertake an investigation of a field of study it is important to put a stick in the ground. For me, curiosity is something which helps to increase the quality of our attention. Interestingly enough I found Todd Kashan had the same idea in his 2009 book on Curiosity? I would really appreciate comments and recommendations for where else to start looking for material on curiosity as a filter for attention.

ABSTRACT Information consumes attention. In an age of information overload and ‘filter failure’ (Shirky, 2008), human attention has become a scarce resource (Lanham, 2007). In the realm of this attention economy, it is argued that the notion of curiosity emerges as a necessary regenerative foil to this attention deficit. For we enjoy our curiosity even when it is not sated (Schmitt & Lahroodi, 2008). Curiosity heightens levels of engagement with information (Harvey et al, 2007) but is paradoxically an effective response to regenerating attention, specifically in organisational contexts where attention is constantly under erasure. Thus the very nature of curiosity is a paradoxical enabler of learning. It requires the subject to both suspend judgment in the sense of Otto Scharmer’s Open Mind (2007) and simultaneously stimulates critical thinking through engaging with what is perceived as “the spiral of curiosity” (Harvey et al, 2007: 44). The paper concludes by evidencing ways in which curiosity can be construed, harnessed and applied as a continuous enabler in the learning mix. The Attention Audit, undertaken on many of our leadership interventions will be discussed to illustrate this point.