Curiosity: Not just for killing cats anymore

Submitted by jpamental on

It’s what drives innovation. It’s what drives the web. It’s the force behind the questions ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’

If Tim Berners-Lee was not curious, he would not have created the very place we all work.

If Marc Andreeson wasn’t curious there would be no graphical browser.

If Dries wasn’t curious we wouldn’t have Drupal (there may be a spelling issue there too)

If you weren’t curious you wouldn’t be here.

I usually talk about this with students. But I think most people here at DrupalCon are students in some way. Even those giving the presentations – actually, I think ESPECIALLY those giving the talks – because they were curious enough to learn something we want to know. 

Curiosity is the one trait that will set you apart from all others. HTML can be taught. CSS can be taught. Drupal can (eventually) be taught. But being curious - really, deeply curious, the kind that wakes you up in the morning with ‘ah-ha’, stops you in the middle of your day so you can take a note and try something later, the kind that keeps you up until you follow that thread of thought all the way to the end – that can not be taught. (though it can be nurtured)

From experience, this is the trait I hire on. I can meet two designers or developers, see great work from both, that may be technically good or visually exciting, but one will have a spark. One will use CSS in a way you didn’t expect. One will find an inspiration in a book on wayfinding systems for hospitals. One will show you a page tested in Arabic in Opera Mini on an old Nokia.

Nobody who is here at DrupalCon would be here if they were not curious. Frankly that is likely because it’s so hard to learn well that if you weren’t curious you would have lost interest long ago. But we have skills. We have interests. We likely have passions, as Fabian has been talking about. But to me, the most critical part is curiosity. It’s been driving me to solve problems and learn new things for almost 20 years on the web, and it keeps me excited about what new thing I’ll learn, make or do tomorrow.

Curiosity is your fire. Guard it. Nurture it. Feed it. Fan it. Turn your spark into a blaze. It’s easy to say that ‘I know _______ so I can always get a job doing that’. But will that be true tomorrow? It does’t matter if you’ve already started making what tomorrow will think comes next. Feed your fire and just go do.

(Written while attending DrupalCon Munich where I was fortunate enough to be presenting about ‘Designing for Uncertainty’. If you’re curious, the video and slides are here: http://bit.ly/JP-DCM2012 )