A photo of colourful graffiti depicting Albert Einstein overlaid with the word "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."

In my author profile, I describe myself as “curious”. Here are a few of those ways that curiosity drives me to be better.

Curiosity helps me learn

Photo a hand holding a pencil in front of a book signifying learning. It may seem obvious that in order to learn, I should first be curious about the subject. But there are layers to learning - I can learn something superficially to build up the minimum working knowledge, or I can lift the covers on the subject and be inquisitive about the underlying mechanisms. Understanding the underlying mechanisms gives me a higher level of confidence to build and troubleshoot things.

I never could learn in school by memorizing anything - I utterly failed at subjects that required accurate recall. I did well in subjects that I was curious enough to go and understand so I could recreate from scratch what I needed to know in tests and exams.

Curiosity helps me learn.

Curiosity helps me listen

Photo of radio telescopes listening to the sky at night. Staying curious while someone else is talking is a great form of active listening. Asking questions before offering advice helps me understand a little deeper.

Staying curious while someone is speaking helps keep the focus on the message the speaker is trying to convey. They may feel like their message is coming across better, rely less on repetition, and have less of a chance of becoming defensive or exasperated.

Listening with curiosity does not mean I agree with what is being said. But I can’t form my own opinion if I don’t first try and understand theirs. Curiosity helps me listen.

Curiosity helps me coach

Photo of a monster in grafitti. Taming my inner advice monster by staying curious for a bit longer is often hard, but has such a rewarding payoff for me and those I coach. It helps me learn and helps me build empathy. It allows the person I’m coaching to use me as a rubber duck and come up with ideas themselves - often more powerful because they came up with the idea themselves.

I like to approach being a coach to learn things myself, not just to impart knowledge. I seek to understand and listen before brainstorming and I brainstorm as a peer before I tell.

Curiosity helps me test

Photo of colourful beakers in a science experiment. Exploratory testing is such a fun and effective technique. More than black-box testing, it’s about learning a system from the outside in. Testing assumptions and learning what happens. Trying to break a system and discovering its failure modes. It’s developing your next test case based on what you learned from the previous test case and letting your learned-knowledge guide you.

Being curious helps me be a better tester - it encourages me to try the “What If” scenarios and to form a more complete mental picture of what’s inside the black box.

Curiosity helps me test.

Curiosity helps me design

Photo of a drafting board with a ruler, compass and set squares on top of it. As I design robust and reliable systems, I use my curiosity about the technology to guide the design around pitfalls by using exploratory testing techniques during the prototyping stage. It’s not enough to design around the theoretical limits - you need to design your failure cases to make sure everything fail safe way.

Iteration 2 is always better done by being curious about how Iteration 1 is actually working. Lift the covers, use a profiler, look at the logs. All of that information is a goldmine of inspirations for making Iterations 2 even better than that which came before.

Curiosity is not ignorance

Photo of a child raising their hand. Asking questions to seek to better understand is a vital part of active listening - even if you think you know the answer, it’s nearly always worth asking the clarifying questions.

If you are asked a question, treat it as an opportunity rather than an annoyance. Take the time to understand the context of the question and encourage follow-on questions as a path to helping your audience to a deeper understanding.

I hope my children are curious

Photo of me and my two sons sticking our tongues out at the camera. If there’s one thing I hope I pass on to my children, it’s my curiosity. My youngest son, Kyle, has an insatiable appetite for figuring out how things work and explaining it to others.

My eldest son Damian has an amazing memory - he loves learning all the facts about a topic so he can later teach me from his unique point of understanding.

Stay curious for longer - it will serve you well.