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Emergent by Stephen Scott Johnson

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Chapter 7 A culture for engagement

THE LATE IRISH NOVELIST AND POET, James Stephens, best known for his fantasy novel Crock of Gold, coined the popular quote, ‘Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.’ Curiosity is the intrinsic motivation to learn, the desire to know about something or someone. It is that spark in our brain that leads us to investigate something because it is interesting or unusual. It is a vital intangible that enables an enterprise to continually improve its context, both culturally and environmentally.

Curiosity is the genius trait of intellectual giants such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, which transforms innovation from being an end in itself to a daily way of working.

‘States of curiosity modulate hippocampus-dependent learning via the dopaminergic circuit’, a fascinating study by Matthias J Gruber, Bernard D Gelman and Charan Ranganath published in the neuroscience journal Neuron, explores the mechanisms by which intrinsic motivational states affect learning, and suggests that when we become curious our brain chemistry changes. The authors explain that a circuit in the brain energises people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding, and that this circuit lights up when we get money or candy. It also lights up when we are curious.

A mountain of evidence supports the benefits of nurturing curiosity in the workplace. These benefits span everything from emotional wellbeing and love of learning, ...

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