Curiosity and Innovation

Curiosity and innovation, two victims of the Western teaching model

An innate feature of humans is our curiosity. From childhood, small children are curious about everything new. They begin to perceive and learn through interaction with the environment.

At first everything is learning. Walking is trial and error with all the muscles involved. Gradually we acquire the necessary skills to control our body and keep it steady and our mind frees up our memory by passing the necessary skill to maintain our balance to our unconscious. Once we are older we do not use our conscious mind while walking. We have internalized what we learned. A similar example occurs while learning to drive a car. Our conscious mind must be aware of three pedals, gas, brake and clutch. Also important are the rear view mirror and the steering wheel as well as what is in front of us. We learn to synchronize these complex movements and actions with great effort and attention. But in time, our mind frees the conscious mind from this effort, and we drive without thinking about it. Have you never experienced being it distracted and talking while driving and when you arrive at your destination you cannot remember the route you followed?

This illustrates the process of learning as: curiosity or interest, understanding, memorizing and internalizing. Through these steps learning moves from the conscious to the unconscious mind, freeing up conscious memory and energy; in other words you internalize the learning. Internalization of knowledge is an essential part of knowledge itself. What is internalized has great impact on future behavior and beliefs.

Furthermore, this demonstrates that knowledge is not acquired but constructed by each of us, as Jean Piaget suggested [1], in what is known as “mental maps”. So, mandatory and standardized lessons are useless as, everyone is different and built differently.

The theory of Knowledge of W. Edwards Deming explains how knowledge is generated through the constant testing of new theories and ideas. We can understand this process graphically with the cycle Deming attributed to Shewhart, but which he developed further:

Without theory there is no knowledge.

For children playing is a way to learn, to interact with others, to know their environment, their selves and their abilities.

The first problem arises at school, when “learning” is no longer the consequence of one’s curiosity and developing of their own abilities. Instead it becomes an obligation, concerning subjects that follow an established rule, “right” information officially accepted. Doubt is no longer a driver in fact it is excluded from the learning experience. Also materials not approved because they violate the official orthodoxy of the moment are excluded from the classroom. The child experiences her first opposition to her own self-development. The intrinsic motivation of curiosity and self-development is replaced by extrinsic motivation: points, stars, grades, awards, acceptance or even punishment. The result is suffering by mental castration caused by forced acceptance of rules imposed by educational professionals, with their own mental maps. The student may never be able to overcome this damage to her curiosity, self esteem and natural developmental progression.

After this the student goes to the University or to another high school. The student is taught from the very beginning how he will be evaluated: the criteria and requirements for obtaining the ultimate prize, the “Title”, her passport to the professional world, the toll to be accepted into the tribe of the “equals”. The first rule that any student understands is that the assessment is subject to the satisfaction of her teacher: the degree of coincidence between the “outcome” being evaluated and the criteria for information and knowledge presented and exposed by the teacher. The elimination of curiosity as a driver is fully achieved and the search for truth becomes unnecessary if not dangerous for her tribal survival.

But, real learning only occurs when, motivated by curiosity, the person constructs knowledge by seeking those materials, techniques, concepts, methods and elements, which can produce her own internal theories that then undergo testing and are subsequently internalized. This is the never ending search for knowledge driven by the innate curiosity of human beings.

The universities are not prepared for this. Their abilities to upgrade and update are conditioned by their own standards and rules, (under the justification of academic rigor and certification standards); and their ability to easily exclude knowledge that does not conform or is “Still”, not approved by them. The University ceased to be universal long ago despite the global world in which we live. Students acquire concepts there, but hardly “internalize” knowledge.

This is a system of domination and control of knowledge by those who have the accredited power to award degrees. And this hinders the development of true knowledge. We are all ingenuous accomplices when exhibiting our university degrees to be accepted. It is, as the philosopher Michel Foucault would say, the exercise of socialized power by exclusion of he who is different, he who is not within the norm. This is a distributed system of power in which we all participate. It is a form of social Darwinism that instead of relying on the selection uses the opposite, the exclusion.

So today as in the past decades, many Business Schools are teaching the same models that generated the crisis in which we live. They keep deepening the same hole. Many of them are supported by the beneficiaries of it, or as Michel Henric-Coll [2] says in his article The Great Hoax: “… or they have been spectacularly wrong, or blatantly deceived us“. Some students and new graduates are shocked to hear opposing views, they are indoctrinated and lost curiosity. What is not standard is heresy.

Curiosity and innovation, two victims of Western teaching model

We know that unless we get new knowledge to manage, an economic catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude will occur within a few years. The current management official teachings have been shown to be useless.

The French philosopher Michel Foucault [3] in his book “Discipline and Punish” – 1975, said “modern society exercises its controlling systems of power and knowledge … looking for a widespread ‘normalization’ “.

What society needs today is not standardization, but to recover curiosity, creativity, innovation and continuous improvement. We must recover doubt, the ability to question, along with the ability to think independently and learn from the evidence.

[1] Jean Piaget, Swiss philosopher and psychologist, born in 1896 and a pioneer of the “constructivist theory of knowledge”

[2] Michel Henric-Coll, French developer of “FractalTeams”® organizational methodology.

[3] Michel Foucault, French philosopher and historian (1926-1984)

“Never-ending Improvement through Profound Knowledge”