How To Be Intellectually Curious

November 13, 2011

Last week I participated in a lively, invigorating conversation with a roomful of university students. I was privileged to be the guest speaker in a class studying administration in nonprofit organizations.

The instructor gave me a heads-up that the class was highly motivated so I’d better “bring my A game.” She promised I’d be impressed with the students’ intellectual curiosity.

Intellectual curiosity? Coming from a teacher, that’s a pretty high compliment. I was eager to find out what she meant.

Sure enough, the students electrified the classroom with their galvanizing intellectual curiosity. For more than an hour we talked and learned from each other. I even made written notes on things they taught me.

In the days afterward, I kept asking myself how one becomes intellectually curious. What are the characteristics? To answer that question, I mentally stepped back into the classroom to remind myself what transpired there. Here are three things I observed:

  1. They asked good questions. The students were genuinely curious. They asked probing, insightful questions to explore and illuminate the world around them. Though they were mature young men and women, they retained a magical, childlike curiosity. If moving into adulthood means they will someday have more answers than questions, then I hope those students never grow up. Read the rest of this entry »
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