How to develop your curiosity

Curiosity connects us with the world and invites exploring, testing boundaries and seeking knowledge and information.

When performing exploratory testing, for example. It’s critical to be curious not only about what you know will happen in positive conditions (the happy path). But also what will happen in unknown conditions and is beyond your current understanding.

With a lack of curiosity. You may fall into the routine of performing the same testing repeatedly. Exercising tests that cannot catch new bugs and issues the more that we execute them.

I do not wish to use the word routine as a synonym for boredom here. As I love routine. From the time I wake up, the music I listen to while I write and using beloved applications on my computer. Routine practices an outstanding thing.

If we look at the word in a wider context. Routine practises allow us to build into our daily lives dedicated time to pursue new knowledge, experiment with fresh ideas, and pursue what interests us the most.

One of my favourite books which I read last year was So Good They Can’t Ignore You by the author and university professor Cal Newport. I’m reading (or listening to) his book Deep Work (another fantastic read and I highly recommend them both.

In Deep Work, Cal talks about how the software company 37 Signals (Now Base Camp), gave their employees an entire month off work to pursue new ideas, create something new and explore their creativity with no outside pressures.

The idea wasn’t unique however and was in fact implemented first by Google with their policy of 20% free time per week.

But regardless of who was first. What both companies realised is that not only is there a benefit to the company by gifting their employees the time to explore and work on what they were curious about without looming deadlines. It also benefits the employees directly with studies showing that curious people are happier. And with most people being more productive when they are in a state of happiness. It’s a win-win all round.

Spot routine actions

As opposed to routine methods and practice. Routine actions, or doing the same thing, in the same repetitive way can lead to high levels of dissatisfaction and uninspired results.

It narrows our thinking, causes us to have a closed mind about the problems or challenges that we might face. And because we think we’ve seen or done everything before. Which often leads to us being prone to never approaching things with a beginner’s mindset.

The solution to this is to break your routines, try something new and explore alternative options. Boost your inquisitiveness and seek to understand more about what you know. But more importantly, what you don’t

Below are a few ways that you can try to develop your minds to be more curious:

Listen, Ask questions and Write

Listen to people with the goal of understanding what they are saying without judgement. Then ask questions about any gaps in your own understanding that you may have. Maybe you aren’t clear about how something works or need a few more details to build up your mental model.

Then finally. Write it down. Write for other people to read, to solidify your own understanding and also to serve as something for you to refer back to at a later date if needed.  But for important concepts or information. The art of writing to jog your own memory as you go through the fine aspects of your understanding. Can be a valuable tool to highlight the areas that spark your curious mind.

Look at things from a fresh perspective

The planet today is full of billions of people. Each one with their own lives, ideas, views and unique perspective of the world we all share. You may have many overlapping views with many of these people. And it’s also just as likely that there will be a few that you don’t. But trying to see the world how other people see it can be a powerful tool for fuelling your curiosity.

  • How do other people think?
  • What do they find enjoyable?
  • Why do they do what they do?

Thinking like this will not only generate ideas that you will want to dive into and further explore. It will also enhance your own life by granting you a deeper level of understanding and empathy for others.

Read a wide range of books and information

The magic of reading is in not only its ability to inform and entertain. But also the power to transport us into unfamiliar worlds that are interesting, exciting and full of possibilities.

Reading for knowledge is important. A lot of my insights have come from reading non-fiction books and essays about subjects that interest me. But sometimes, it’s fun to explore and read some fiction, a subject which is outside normal habits or even some poetry.

This can not only help with cultivating new ideas and experiences. But also bringing to light fresh perspectives and inspire creative thinking.

Above all, just get outside your comfort zone

The overarching message that links all these ideas together is that you just need to do things that are outside your normal routine. Expand your horizons and actively seek out information that challenges your ideas and opens your eyes to alternative perspectives.

The traditional notion around this is just to travel and experience new cultures. But not only is that not needed. It’s also untrue as you can get similar benefits by mixing up the media you consume. Or the ideas you pursue daily.

What makes you curious? Feel free to comment below!

Posted by Kevin Tuck

Kevin Tuck is an ISTQB qualified software tester with nearly a decade of professional experience. Well versed in creating versatile and effective testing strategies. He offers a variety of collaborative software testing services. From managing your testing strategy, creating valuable automation assets, or serving as an additional resource.

3 Replies to “How to develop your curiosity”

  1. I endorse everything you say here, Kevin (my book-lined flat will attest to that!). I have one other source to point you at and one thing that I find fascinating as a tester.

    Especially during these lockdown times, I find it revealing to listen to BBC Radio 4. I know that there’s a degree of criticism these days in different quarters about th BBC’s news coverage, but their factual coverage, especially in the daytime, can give a listener an overview of a lot of subjects that they may not have encountered before. For instance, as testers, there’s a fascinating series running currently about the Post Office Horizon IT system scandal (which has implications for testing). And yesterday, there was a programme about the wacky marginalia in medieval manuscripts (bored monks doing fantastical doodles) which was entitled “Knight fights Giant Snail”. It’s almost like having a constant source of free associations going on in the background.

    The thing that triggers my curiosity is looking at the everyday assumptions we make about other people’s everyday lives, especially in other countries. For example, I was once working on a national-level call handling application with an offshore team of developers. Some of our clients had only three geographical zones in their business: Inner London (Congestion Charge zone), Outer London (within M25) and Everywhere Else. I was discussing this with the dev team when I suddenly thought “I’m talking about ‘within M25’ when their country actually doesn’t have any motorways.” i didn’t take this as a signal to condescend; rather, I took it as a signal to be careful about how I defined the problem.

    And there’s the way Microsoft defines expiry dates. There are different definitions of expiry dates in the US and the UK; legally, an expiry date in the UK is the last day something’s valid, whereas in the US it’s the first day something is not valid. This is actually an obscure legal definition but very few people realise this – and Microsoft, for one, have automatically assumed that the US definition is universal.

    Everyday life is different in different places and this may throw up quite fundamental differences that only an outsider will spot. It’s important then to reflect that in how we think about our testing work.


    1. Thanks for the comment! I’ve not heard/seen the Post Office IT thing. Will have to check that out this weekend.


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