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Curious? Wanting to learn more is key to career success

July 15, 2021 - 12 min read

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What does intellectual curiosity mean?

Is curiosity linked to intelligence?

How to show intellectual curiosity and further your career

Showing intellectual curiosity to help your career development

Practice intellectual curiosity to improve your quality of life

Children are impressive. They learn everything so quickly and easily.

Imagine being able to learn and improve in your career as quickly as a child can learn to stack blocks or read their first words.

Apart from the plasticity of their brains, children naturally demonstrate intellectual curiosity.

For some people, this insatiable thirst for knowledge slowly dissipates with age. This makes learning and problem-solving more difficult over time.

But others keep their curiosity, even throughout adulthood. They always seek to find deeper answers to their questions.

This intellectual curiosity is the key to becoming a better learner. Adults may not have the brain plasticity of children, but they can still practice curiosity.

Let’s explore the concept of intellectual curiosity, what it means, and how you can demonstrate it to succeed in your career.

What does intellectual curiosity mean?

Here is an intellectual curiosity definition:

Intellectual curiosity is a person’s willingness and desire to learn new things and dig deeper than the surface.

Intellectual curiosity makes learning a much more natural process, instead of just a duty or a chore.

When you’re intellectually curious, you’re more willing and interested to acquire knowledge. You naturally ask more questions and seek to understand why things are the way they are.

Intellectually curious people aren’t satisfied with the status quo as an answer to their questions. They dig deep into topics to fully understand the reasoning behind common processes.

Plus, they want to constantly expand their knowledge in new topics.

Having intellectual curiosity is also crucial to develop a beginner’s mind. That’s because you need to be curious to constantly approach old situations in new ways.


Why is intellectual curiosity important for your career?

Someone who’s intellectually curious will also have better problem-solving skills.

As a result, they can make better decisions and constantly learn from every problem.

Intellectual curiosity can also help you approach situations with more creativity. That’s because you won’t just stick with what worked in the past.

When you’re curious, you’ll also have an active mind instead of a passive mind. Your mind is always active and asking questions about the world around you.

As a result, your mind becomes stronger.

In fact, studies show that curiosity and conscientiousness put together are just as important as intelligence for academic performance.

Is intellectual curiosity a skill?

Intellectual curiosity isn’t a hard skill, but it is a soft skill.

This means that you can’t learn intellectual curiosity like you would learn programming or data analysis.

Some people are innately curious. They’ll try to find the answer to everything without even having to think about it. But someone who isn’t naturally curious can still work on this skill.

You can develop intellectual curiosity by purposefully seeking out opportunities to be curious and learn.

Intellectual curiosity quotes

Here are some things people have said about intellectual curiosity over the years that might help inspire your curiosity:

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

-Albert Einstein

“You’re never going to learn something as profoundly as when it’s purely out of curiosity.” Christopher Nolan“People die when curiosity goes.”

-Graham Swift

One can remain alive… if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways.”

-Edith Wharton

Is curiosity linked to intelligence?

There have been several links found between curiosity and intelligence.

One study found a significant relationship between curiosity and emotional intelligence. Another study discovered that the brain regions that control learning and memory also control curiosity.

An intelligent person will generally seek to understand more about the world around them.

Think about it — intelligence doesn’t equate to knowledge. Yet, intelligent people seem to know a lot. Why is that?

That’s because they’re naturally curious and want to learn.


How to show intellectual curiosity and further your career

If demonstrating intellectual curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, that’s okay. You can always develop it over time.

Here are five intellectual curiosity examples you can follow to demonstrate your own curiosity.

1. Ask more questions

At first, asking questions may make you feel like you’re less capable or knowledgeable than your peers. But this isn’t the case.

When you ask questions, you’ll inevitably learn more about a topic. You’ll clarify things you didn’t understand or misconceptions you might have.

Even if a question seems dumb, don’t be afraid to ask.

If other people don’t ask questions, it doesn’t mean they know everything. They may just be hesitant to ask. Break the ice and ask away.

2. Admit that you don’t know something

If you don’t know something, don’t try to pretend you do. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something.

When you admit to a gap in your knowledge, you now know that you have something to learn.

But don’t just say “I don’t know” and leave it at that. Take it as an opportunity to rectify the gap in knowledge.

You can instead say:

“I don’t know, let’s find out,” or “I don’t know, but I’d like to learn.”

3. See where your interests take you

Take a step back and ask yourself what excites you. What do you wish you could understand more? Follow those interests even if you have a fear of failure.

It’s better to start with something you’re passionate about, rather than force yourself in a direction that drains you.

4. Start to learn from other people

Once you find something that lights you up, look for opportunities to learn from other people.

Learning from people will allow you to ask follow-up questions and see things in action.

For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn more about what your manager does, find opportunities to discuss with them. See if you can observe their job and learn from their experience.

Try to learn from a variety of people so that you can see things from different perspectives.

Spark your curiosity by asking yourself: “Is this the only way we can achieve this? How would others approach this situation?”

5. Diversify your interests

You may know of some topics that you’re passionate about. Other topics may not interest you at all. But try to explore other interests to spark your curiosity.

Take a trip to the library and pick a book at random. Or, visit one of your peers at their desk to learn more about what they do.

It’s okay if your curiosity isn’t sparked by everything you explore. What’s important is to always work to diversify your interests. Show that you’re able to go beyond your comfort zone to learn something new.

manager-asking-questions-to employees-intellectual curiosity

Showing intellectual curiosity to help your career development

When you show intellectual curiosity, you can advance your career. Here’s why.

1. You’ll become better at learning new things

Recent studies show that curiosity can help improve learning and retention of new information. So not only will you want to learn new things, but you’ll also become better at it.

This will give you an edge in your career.

If you’re able to easily learn new concepts and adapt to new situations, you’ll be able to achieve your goals more easily.

2. Intellectual curiosity is a desirable trait

When you’re curious, you’re more likely to try new things. This means you’re also more likely to innovate at work.

As a result, intellectual curiosity is much more valuable than sticking to the status quo.

You can also avoid confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to avoid looking into sources that will prove you wrong. With confirmation bias you search for and favor research that supports what you already believe.

Curiosity can lead you to look at something from all angles, even those you may not agree with.

3. You’ll have more fun at work

When you’re curious about your work, it also makes it more fun. That’s because you learn to become more interested in everything surrounding you.

Intellectual curiosity allows you to want to dig deeper and explore why things are the way they are. Because of this, learning becomes a fun experience. It’s no longer a task you have to suffer through. You’ll also become more flexible, since you’ll enjoy adapting to new ways of doing things.

4. Intellectual curiosity gives you an edge over AI

Artificial intelligence and technology are already making several careers redundant.

For example, fewer cashiers are needed now that self-service cash registers exist.

But AI isn’t capable of intellectual curiosity — at least not in the foreseeable future. When you cultivate intellectual curiosity, you’re demonstrating a trait unique to humans.

Your ability to learn, improve, and innovate helps make you irreplaceable.


Practice intellectual curiosity to improve your quality of life

Intellectual curiosity turns everything into an opportunity to learn.

When you see everything as an opportunity, the world becomes a more interesting place. This can improve your quality of life not just at work, but also at home.

You become better at learning and thus improve your career. But you also find ways to make your home life more interesting.

You can cultivate your intellectual curiosity by taking up coaching with BetterUp. Try it today to see how great it feels to follow your curiosity.

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Published July 15, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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